How to open a bank account in the United States

Opening a bank account in the United States can seem intimidating given the sheer number of options on the market. Fortunately, most banks and credit unions follow a similar account opening process, and it’s also quite simple. Opening a bank account is just a matter of choosing a bank, providing some information, and then starting to use it.

Choose a bank or credit union

When looking for a bank or financial institution, you want to make sure that this is the best option for your financial needs. The most common accounts are savings and checking, and each one has its characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. Now, when comparing banks, keep their conditions in mind, as they can affect your money.

Basically, there are three types of financial institutions:

  • Banks. The best-known institutions in your community, or across the country, fall into this category and offer most of the basic services you need. Local and regional banks tend to have friendlier fee and fee structures, but it may be possible to get a fee waiver at larger banks.
  • Credit unions. A cooperative of credit is a customer-owned financial institution, offering many of the same services and products as the big banks. If you are allowed to join one of these institutions, you will likely enjoy competitive rates. However, always check the rates and conditions carefully.
  • Banks and credit unions online. These institutions operate completely online. There is no branch to go to, and most requests are basically handled by you. If you’re comfortable with your computer or mobile device (and doing basic banking), an online bank may be your best option. What’s more, With a bank of this type you can enjoy lower fees, earn higher interest rates on savings accounts, and even get a free checking account.

Tip: You don’t have to choose just one type of bank. In fact, it is advisable to have bank accounts in different types of banks. For example, you can open one in an online bank, and another in a traditional bank, in order to enjoy low rates without losing the possibility of resorting to the help of a traditional bank in case of a financial emergency.

Visit the bank branch or its website

The first step to opening a bank account in the United States is to visit the website of the institution that interests you. To do this, look for the link on search sites like Google or Bing, or check any brochure you have from the institution. Be careful when typing in the web address, as there may be sites posing as the bank to steal people’s information.

However, The advantage of opening a bank account online is that you can do it anytime and from anywhere.. But if you feel comfortable with the usual process, that is, in person, visit the bank branch during business hours. Before leaving home, have the following documents ready:

  • Your government-issued ID (Driver’s license, passport).
  • Your social security number.
  • An initial deposit (if required).
  • Your physical and postal address.

Choose the financial product that best suits your needs

In most cases, you will find a wide variety of accounts and services to choose from, including:

  • Checking accounts. Use them to make payments and receive direct deposits.
  • Savings accounts. These accounts allow you to earn interest.
  • Money Market Accounts. These products sometimes earn a little more interest than savings accounts (while maintaining your access to cash).
  • Certificates of deposit (CDs). These products can earn you much more than savings accounts, but they do require you to lock up the funds for a certain period of time.
  • Loans. You can access several types of loans, and the most common are car loans, personal loans, and mortgages.

Within one of the above categories, a bank may offer multiple products, each with a different name and level of service. Premium accounts that come with more features consequently have higher fees (such as monthly service fees, ATM fees, and overdraft fees) and higher thresholds to avoid the service fee.

Therefore, choose the option that has a mix of features and rates that fit your needs and budget. For example, if you are going to maintain a low account balance, it may be in your best interest to open a bank account with no maintenance fees.

Sometimes when reviewing an online bank’s products on their website, you need to be more thorough than you would at a traditional bank. For example, to examine the options and conditions in detail, you may have to click on “Open an account”, and then on the financial product of your interest.

Now, in the event that you are looking to open a bank account in a “traditional” institution, talk to the advisor to help you find the account that best suits your situation and needs. Of course, you’ll only want to bank where your money is protected by Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance (or NCUSIF in the case of credit unions).

On the other hand, We recommend that you avoid accounts that require a high balance to be eligible for fee waiversUnless, of course, you can afford to keep that amount in the account and you intend to use the special features it offers. However, keep in mind that even a “free” account may charge fees in some cases, regardless of whether or not it has a monthly maintenance fee.

Provide the information requested

When opening a bank account, you will need to provide certain confidential information to the bank. In fact, in order to protect themselves and comply with regulations like the Patriot Act, banks cannot open an account without verifying your identity.

You will need to provide details such as your name, date of birth and mailing address, as well as your social security number. You’ll also be asked to present government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license or passport.

If you open a bank account online, you’ll enter all of this information in a text box; and if you do it in person, the agent will ask you for the documents, and will probably photocopy them.

Keep reading: How to cancel an automatic payment from my bank

financial history

It is not necessary to have a perfect financial history to open a bank account in the United States as a resident, but the truth is that it can be very helpful. In fact, it is common for banks to check your credit history to verify if you have had problems of any kind. These checks are usually “soft,” so they don’t hurt your credit. But if this worries you, you can always ask. In conclusion, it is not necessary to have excellent or perfect credit to open a bank account, but having bad credit is reason enough for your application to be denied.

Accept the terms

You must agree to comply with a series of rules as well as accept responsibility for certain activities that are made in your accounts. When you open a bank account, you form a relationship based on one important topic: Your money. So you should know what you’re getting into. If you open the account in an online bank, you will complete this step by clicking the “I accept” button.

Are you under 18 years old?

If you are a minor, you will need someone over the age of 18 to want to open a US bank account with you. You’ll still be able to use a debit card and online banking, and eventually you’ll be able to have your own account. But banks need at least one adult on the account for you to get started.

joint accounts

If you are going to open a joint account of any kind, you will need the personal information of all the account holders and the signature of each of them. It is best to gather everyone in one place to complete the application.

Although the disclosures have improved over time, there are many important details buried in the fine print when opening a bank account. In particular, you’ll want to know about any charges applicable to your account, and when your funds will be available for withdrawal.

In addition to bank agreements, federal law dictates your rights and responsibilities as an account holder. For example, if someone fraudulently withdraws money from your account, you may be protected against such losses. But nevertheless, you may need to report this activity within a certain time frame in order to get full protection.

Print, sign, and mail the papers (if necessary)

If you’re opening an account at an online bank, you may need to print, sign, and mail a document before your account is opened. Some banks use electronic disclosure and consent in order to make the banking relationship legally binding. That is, the process is fully and completely electronic. Others still require a signed document to open an account, so the account is not activated until they receive it.

Put money in your bank account

If you are opening a checking or savings account, an initial deposit is often required.. Now, regardless of that, there are several ways to put money into a new account, and the most common are:

  • Cash deposit. It should be available the next day.
  • Deposit by check or money order. Funds should be available within a few business days.
  • Direct deposit through your employer. Instead of receiving a paycheck, your earnings will be sent directly to your account.
  • Electronic transfer. It is also possible to fund your new account from another.

Start using the account

If you’ve followed all the steps correctly, then you should have a new US bank account in your name, which you can start using in just a few minutes. If you opened a checking or savings account, you will most likely be given a debit card, so depending on the bank (if it is online or traditional), you can receive it in person or by mail. It’s also possible to get a checkbook, so ask the bank about it. And to get the most out of your account, set up additional options (usually free) with which you can better manage your money.

  • Online bill payment. This feature allows you to pay bills electronically.
  • Remote check deposit. Your bank’s mobile app can let you deposit checks remotely so you don’t have to go to a branch or fill out deposit slips.
  • Alerts. Sign up and you’ll receive text or email alerts when your account balance is running low or when large transactions are made.

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