What Is Required When Opening a Checking Account?

Quick Answer

Requirements for opening a checking account generally include personal identification, like a Social Security number, proof of address, proof of citizenship or residency and an opening initial deposit.

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Opening a checking account is a fairly straightforward process you can complete in a matter of minutes. Traditional banks allow you to open an account at a local branch if you prefer in-person banking. However, both brick-and-mortar and online-only banks provide the convenience of opening an account online. Here's what you'll need to open a checking account quickly and easily.

What You Need to Open a Checking Account

Requirements to open a checking account vary from bank to bank. But usually, you'll need to provide a few supporting documents, including identification and proof of address. Check your financial institution's account requirements and gather these documents before applying to ensure a smooth process.

Here are some standard requirements to open a checking account:

  • Personal identification: Typically, a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, passport, state ID or military ID, will suffice. You may need to show your Social Security card, and applicants under 18 may need to provide a birth certificate. Parents and guardians can sign legal documents to open a joint account with a minor.
  • Proof of address: Many financial institutions want to verify your current address with a rental agreement, mortgage statement, utility bill or account statement that shows your name and address.
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or residency: Many banks allow noncitizens living in the United States to apply for a checking account. You'll need to provide additional documents, such as a passport with the passport number and issuing country, an alien identification card or another government-issued photo ID that includes the number and issuing country.
  • Opening deposit: Some checking accounts have no minimum deposit requirement, while others require a small initial deposit, such as $25, to activate the account.

Once you've verified what is required when opening a checking account at your financial institution, you can collect your documents and complete an application online or at a local branch office. Most banks can process applications in a few minutes, but some brick-and-mortar banks and credit unions may take up to a couple of business days.

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What to Consider Before Opening a Checking Account

As with other financial products, not all checking accounts are the same. For example, some banks may offer perks like free checks while others charge higher monthly service fees. Here's a breakdown of factors to consider to help you find the best checking account for your needs.

  • Minimum balance requirements: Many checking accounts require you to keep a certain amount in your checking account to avoid fees. If you anticipate keeping a low balance, look for a checking account with no minimum balance requirement.
  • Fees and charges: Checking accounts should make managing your finances more convenient. Be wary of financial institutions that make this benefit too expensive to be worthwhile. Look for checking accounts with low or no monthly fees over those with excessive monthly maintenance fees, overdraft fees and out-of-network ATM charges.
  • Premium checking account benefits: A premium account fee may be worth it if it gives you access to free checks and money orders, waived ATM fees or complimentary safe deposit boxes. Some checking accounts offer rewards programs that give you points or cash back on your debit card purchases.
  • Interest earning potential: Most standard checking accounts don't earn much (if any) interest. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), the national average checking interest rate was 0.08% in June 2024. While that isn't a high yield compared to many savings account rates, if you plan on keeping a substantial amount in your checking account, an interest checking account may be a good option.
  • Preferred method of banking: One of the most important checking account considerations is choosing how you want to bank: in person or online. You might choose a checking account through a traditional bank if you prefer making deposits or handling banking issues in person at your local office. On the other hand, you may be more comfortable doing all your banking online or over the phone, in which case an online-only bank may make more sense.

Once you decide how you want to bank, what perks are important to you and what fees you're willing to pay, you're ready to open a checking account.

How to Open a Checking Account

Whether you're opening your first checking account or switching accounts, the steps are the same. Fortunately, the process is simple and can be completed quickly.

1. Choose a Checking Account

Shop and compare different types of checking accounts at various financial institutions, taking into account the features, fees, minimum balance requirement and other factors listed above. Perhaps most important, choose a checking account that suits your banking style—whether you prefer in-person service or handling your account entirely online.

2. Gather the Required Documents

Once you've chosen your financial institution and checking account, confirm the bank's requirements for a checking account. Typically, you'll need to provide a government-issued ID, Social Security or taxpayer identification number, and proof of address. Remember, if you're opening a joint account, the other account holder will need to supply the same documents. Similarly, if you are applying for a student checking account, you must provide proof of enrollment at an eligible institution.

3. Fill Out an Application

Visit the bank's local branch or online site to initiate the application process and confirm which documents you need to complete it. The process is generally straightforward and can be completed in a few minutes.

4. Make an Initial Opening Deposit

If your financial institution requires an initial deposit to activate your account—usually $25 or more—you can deposit cash or transfer money from another account. In the latter case, be prepared to provide your account and routing numbers to complete the transfer.

5. Optimize Your Checking Account

Once your account is approved, review your terms to understand how to avoid incurring unnecessary fees. This is a good time to set up a direct deposit of your paycheck so you can access your money sooner. You can also automate bill payments ahead of time so you don't miss any due dates.

The Bottom Line

A checking account lets you conveniently deposit funds, make payments and track your spending. Once you choose the checking account you want, knowing what you need to open the account will help the process go smoothly.

If you're thinking about opening a new checking account, the Experian Smart Money™ Digital Card can help you build credit without debt by automatically linking to Experian Boost®ø, which gives you credit for eligible bill payments after three months of payments. You'll 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.