March 13, 2020

How to Open a Checking Account

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Opening a checking account is simple once you've done your research. Find out what you need to know in our guide below.

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Before Opening a Checking Account

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Most accounts will include basics like a debit card and the ability to set up direct deposits. But additional features can vary between different financial institutions.

You can set up a checking account through a:

  • Physical bank
  • Online bank
  • Credit union

All three have pros and cons. Make sure to look into accounts from multiple types of institutions before settling on one.

Are online banks safe?
If an online bank is FDIC insured, it's probably safe to use. Online banks often use the same, if not stronger, security measures than physical banks.

Figure out what you need

Think of the reason you're opening one in the first place. A checking account that is great for servers who need to deposit cash tips may not be as good of a match for freelancers who make all their money online.

Questions to ask yourself:

Why do I need this account?
You may need it to:

  • Deposit paychecks and/or cash
  • Make daily purchases
  • Pay bills
  • Write checks
  • Transfer money

Or, you may need a combination of multiple things. Make sure your chosen account can do everything you'll need it to do.

What's the difference between a checking account and a savings account?
Checking accounts are meant to be used often, so the money in them is easily accessible for transactions, usually through a debit card. Savings accounts are meant as places for money to sit and accumulate interest, so the funds in them aren't as easily accessed.

How will I put money into this account?
Not every bank has physical locations or gives its customers free access to ATMs for cash deposits. Depositing cash into an online-only account is possible, but can be complicated.

How much am I willing to pay for this account?
Some checking accounts are free.

Some charge additional fees, such as:

  • Overdraft fees
  • Maintenance fees
  • Card fees
  • Minimum balance fees
  • Check fees

Make sure that you're aware of all the costs you may have to pay and if there is any way to waive them.

How often will I need physical banking services?
Figure out how often you'll need these types of services and if you would be okay just doing them online or over the phone.

    Radius Bank

    Rewards Checking

    • Earn 1.00% cash back on purchases when you use your Radius debit card.
    • Earn 0.15% APY on balances of $100,000 & up.
    • Earn 0.10% APY on balances of $2,500–$99,999.99.

Do I have/want to open a savings/credit account from the same bank?
If so, make sure the institution even offers what you're looking for.

    Chase

    Chase Premier Plus Checking℠

    • Enjoy $300 as a new Chase checking customer, when you open a Chase Premier Plus Checking℠ account and set up direct deposit.
    • Enjoy $300, more benefits, and earn interest on your new Chase checking account.
    • The $25 Monthly Service Fee is waived when you keep an average beginning day balance of $15,000 or more in any combination of this account and linked qualifying Chase checking, savings and other balances.
    • No Chase fee on first four non-Chase ATM transactions per statement period.
    • Earn interest on your checking account balance.
    • Access to 16,000 Chase ATMs and nearly 4,900 branches
    • Open your account online now.
    • Available online nationwide except in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. For branch locations, visit locator.chase.com.
    Chase

    Chase Total Checking®

    • Enjoy a $200 bonus when you open a new Chase Total Checking® account and set up direct deposit
    • Access to 16,000 Chase ATMs and nearly 4,900 branches
    • Chase Mobile® app - Manage your accounts, deposit checks, transfer money and more -- all from your device.
    • Open your account online now.
    • Available online nationwide except in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. For branch locations, visit locator.chase.com.

Do I need this account to earn interest?
The interest rate for an account balance, if there is any at all, can vary widely.

Will I be paying bills directly from my account?
Some accounts offer linked bill pay, while others do not.

Will I need to use my bank while traveling?
This is important if you're a frequent traveler who needs access to physical locations and ATMs all over the world.

Am I going to share this account with a partner?
If yes, you'll need to look into if your chosen institutions offers joint account options.

Do I need to access this account on my phone?
If so, make sure the bank you choose has a mobile app with at least decent user reviews.

Make sure to check if you can open a special, exclusive checking account for your specific group. There are accounts that cater to seniors, members of the military and their families, students, public servants, and more.

Other things to look for

Before committing to an account, you'll also want to know:

  1. If the bank is FDIC insured: If not, don't open an account. If the financial institution fails, you won't be able to get your money back.

  2. If the account requires a minimum deposit/daily balance: Make sure you can meet and maintain the requirements so you don't get penalized.

  3. If the account has overdraft protection: This isn't a make-or-break requirement, but it's nice to have for people who have recurring charges they may not remember every month.

How to Open a Checking Account

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Once you've found your dream account, things move pretty quickly. Most banks and credit unions allow new customers to open an account online or in-person, if they have physical locations.

Step-by-step guide

Here's what you'll need to do:

  1. Have your documents ready
    That includes your:
    • Driver's license/other form of identification
    • Social Security card
    • Proof of address (lease or utility bill)
    • Contact information (name, home address, email address, phone number)

    If you're opening a joint account, you'll need to have this information for both parties.

  2. Have money for an opening deposit
    Make sure to check if your bank requires a deposit for your type of account. The minimum for many basic accounts is $25.

    Making an initial deposit at a credit union is slightly different. You'll usually be required to "buy a share" of the credit union in order to use it. Shares can be as low as $5 each. Once you buy a share, the money will stay in your account as long as it's open.

  3. Fill out an application
    You can do this online or in-person. Most financial institutions will run a credit check on you to see your past banking history and then approve or deny you for the account.

  4. Sign your paperwork and create your PIN
    You'll usually receive all of your official account materials, such as your debit card, in the mail a few days after opening. If you're opening an account in-person, you may be able to get a temporary debit card to use in the meantime.

  5. Make your opening deposit (if required)
    The money you deposit may not be available immediately, depending on your form of payment.

  6. Use your new checking account
    Depending on the institution and type of account, you may be able to use your checking account immediately or may have to wait a few days. This is a great time to set up direct deposit and bill pay, add other linked accounts you want to have available, or close an old checking account.

Bottom Line

Opening a checking account is easy when you have all of your materials gathered. Before you commit to one, make sure that you know everything that you'll need to do to maintain it and possibly avoid any extra fees.

    Chase

    Chase Premier Plus Checking℠

    • Enjoy $300 as a new Chase checking customer, when you open a Chase Premier Plus Checking℠ account and set up direct deposit.
    • Enjoy $300, more benefits, and earn interest on your new Chase checking account.
    • The $25 Monthly Service Fee is waived when you keep an average beginning day balance of $15,000 or more in any combination of this account and linked qualifying Chase checking, savings and other balances.
    • No Chase fee on first four non-Chase ATM transactions per statement period.
    • Earn interest on your checking account balance.
    • Access to 16,000 Chase ATMs and nearly 4,900 branches
    • Open your account online now.
    • Available online nationwide except in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. For branch locations, visit locator.chase.com.

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

More from CreditDonkey:


How to Open a Bank Account


Free Online Checking Account


What You Need to Open a Bank Account




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