What do you need to open a checking account?

Young woman opening a new checking accountImage: Young woman opening a new checking account

In a Nutshell

To open a checking account, you’ll need to provide proof of identification and contact information. Be sure to bring this information if you open your account in person — but know that you can probably open an account online. You can compare plenty of choices between traditional and online-only banks.
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You’ll need a few pieces of information to open a checking account.

A checking account is probably one of the most important financial accounts you’ll own. It’s where you can manage your money, make deposits, and write checks to cover purchases and pay bills.

There are a few key pieces of information you’ll likely need, including photo identification such as a driver’s license, as well as personal contact information such as a phone number, home address and email. You’ll also likely need to provide a Social Security number and birthdate so your bank or credit union can verify your information. Keep reading to learn what to consider when opening a checking account and what information you’ll likely need.



Choosing a checking account

While gathering required documents and information for your application, you’ll need to decide what type of checking account is right for you. Some potential options: basic checking, interest checking, cash rewards accounts, student accounts and business checking accounts.

There are many banks and credit unions to compare. Benefits, rates and fees can vary.

If you’re opening an account for the first time or haven’t opened a new one in a while, you need to know what’s required.

What do you need to open a checking account?

To open a checking account, you’ll probably have to provide a variety of information and documentation to verify your identity and ensure the bank has all the information it needs to get your account up and running.

Keep in mind that the exact requirements will depend not only on the bank you choose but also the type of account. You’ll probably need to provide the following:

  • Photo ID — The financial institution will need to verify your identity. You may have to show a photo ID such as a state-issued driver’s license, passport, military ID or another form of photo ID.
  • Identification number A bank is likely to request your Social Security number or Individual tax identification number (or ITIN), alien ID card number, passport number, and issuing country or another government-issued identification number.
  • Contact information Banks will also require contact information such as your mailing address, email address and phone number.
  • Minimum deposit Banks often require a minimum deposit to open your account. The amount could be as low as $25.
  • Business information If you’re opening a business account, financial institutions are likely to ask for your employer identification number (or EIN), business formation documents, business license and ownership agreements.
  • Parent or guardian information If you’re opening a checking account and are under 18, you may need a parent or legal guardian as an account co-owner. They’ll have to provide the same information.

What else to consider when opening a checking account

Checking account requirements and benefits can vary dramatically. Here are some factors to consider.

  • Minimum balance requirements — Some banks may require you to maintain a certain balance to avoid paying monthly charges. Look for those that don’t have minimum balance requirements or those that work for your financial situation.
  • Costs Banks may charge you for maintenance fees, overdrafts, the cost of checks and more. Be sure to compare fees across various banks and look for those with no or low service fees.  
  • ATM access If you regularly get cash from ATMs, you may want a bank that allows free or low-fee ATM transactions.
  • Mobile banking Make sure the bank has the mobile features you want.
  • Rewards Some accounts offer rewards for purchases you make with a debit card, similar to some credit cards. While this can be a nice perk, be sure to weigh it alongside the other pros and cons.
  • Interest checking Some checking accounts allow you to earn interest, like a savings account. Compare the interest rates across different banks and consider whether you’ll be able to maintain the monthly balance some financial institutions require to earn money on your deposits.
  • One-stop banking Some people prefer to do all their banking with one financial institution. If that’s you, consider all of what a bank offers, including savings and money market accounts, certificates of deposit, credit cards and loans.

What’s next?

Gathering the documents you’ll need, figuring out which type of checking account best suits your needs and determining which bank is the right fit for you takes some planning and research. To make the process go smoother, you might want to prepare a checklist, visit bank websites and speak to customer service agents to learn more.


About the author: Erin Gobler is a freelance personal finance writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. Erin studied journalism and political science at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and began writing full-time after a seven-year caree… Read more.