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When applying for a credit card, auto loan or home loan, you'll be subject to a credit check. And it's not just financial institutions that are interested in your credit score: Employers and landlords may also take it into consideration.
You may be wondering whether you need a stellar credit score simply to open a bank account. You don't need a credit score to open a bank account because banks don't check your credit when you apply for an account. Instead, they'll take a look at your ChexSystems report, which contains information about your banking history. Here's what to know before applying for a new bank account.
What Information Do You Need to Open a Bank Account?
Banks and credit unions want to know their new customers can manage their checking and savings accounts responsibly. However, they won't check your credit report or score, so you won't need an established credit history to qualify for a bank account. Instead, financial institutions do their due diligence by looking at your ChexSystems report.
ChexSystems is a banking reporting agency that gathers information about any prior deposit accounts you've held, such as savings and checking accounts. A ChexSystems report provides insight into your banking history, helping banks or credit unions determine whether you're a reliable customer. Red flags such as being overdrawn or having insufficient funds, unpaid bank fees or involuntary account closure could cause a financial institution to refuse you an account.
You don't need a credit score to open a bank account, so what do you need? Banks and credit unions typically ask for the following when you're opening an account:
- Government-issued photo identification, such as a driver's license, passport, state ID or military ID
- Your Social Security number or Taxpayer Identification Number
- A document proving your address, such as a mortgage statement or utility bill that has your name on it
- An initial deposit, which you can typically make in cash or by transferring funds from another account
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Why It's Still Important to Establish a Credit Score
Even though you can open a bank account without a credit score, it's still worth taking the time to establish one. Having good credit can make all the difference when you're applying for loans, credit cards and other forms of credit. A good credit score can help you qualify for lower interest rates and better terms. On the flip side, a poor credit score could end up costing you more in the long run or even make it challenging to get approved for credit altogether.
Where should you start if you don't have a credit history (known as being credit invisible)? You need credit to get credit, which can seem like a paradox. Fortunately, there are several options available to help you break free from credit invisibility and start building your credit history.
- Become an authorized user on someone else's credit card. Ask a trusted family member or friend who has good credit to add you to their credit card account as an authorized user. You can use the card just as you would your own credit card, while piggybacking on the primary cardholder's positive credit history.
- Apply for a secured credit card. Secured credit cards work just like regular credit cards, with one key difference: You must make a refundable security deposit to open the account. If you miss a payment, the card issuer can simply use your deposit to cover it, protecting your credit and reducing their risk.
- Take out a credit-builder loan. Designed specifically to help build credit, credit-builder loans place a certain amount (usually $300 to $1,000) in an account for you. You make monthly loan payments for six to 24 months. Once the loan is fully paid off, you'll receive the money—and, if you've made payments on time, the foundation of a healthy credit score.
- Sign up for Experian Go™. Jump-start your credit journey—even without any credit accounts—with Experian Go. Simply sign up and download the Experian app to create an Experian credit report. Experian Go makes recommendations to help you build a credit history, such as signing up for Experian Boost®ø. Experian Boost gives you credit for on-time payments of your rent, utilities, cellphone and cable or streaming service payments. Since on-time payments are the single biggest factor in FICO® Scores☉ , this can give your credit score a quick boost.
The Bottom Line
You don't need a credit score to open a bank account because banks don't check your credit when you apply for an account. To see what banks do look at, consider reviewing your ChexSystems report. Getting a free copy is easy, and you can do it once per year. If you notice any negative information, take steps to address it, such as paying outstanding fees. Or, if you spot inaccuracies, you have the right to file a dispute with ChexSystems to have them corrected.
If you're thinking about opening a new checking account, the Experian Smart Money™ Digital Checking Account & Debit Card can help you build credit without debt by automatically linking to Experian Boost, which gives you credit for eligible bill payments. You will also pay no monthly fees¶ for Experian Smart Money, have access to more than 55,000 fee-free ATMs worldwide** and could receive your paychecks up to two days early when you enroll in direct deposit†. You can get an Experian Smart Money Account through a free or paid Experian membership, which also gives you access to your FICO® Score, Experian credit report and more. See terms at experian.com/legal.