Easy, safe and for everyone: The essentials of opening a bank account

by JP Morgan Chase

There are many reasons for opening a bank account. From depositing a check to making a transfer, working with a bank makes it seamless to manage your money in a safe way. 

Opening up a bank account also makes it easier to pay bills on time, open a debit card, deposit and withdraw money from an ATM, and make transfers from an app, among many other things. 

Whether you’re opening a bank account online or at a bank branch, it’s important to prepare and anticipate what information you will be asked for.

Personal Checking Account

If you’re opening up a personal checking account, you will need to fill out an application form and provide the following documents:

  1. Identification: You don’t need to be a U.S. citizen to open an account, but you need documents to verify your identity. These may vary slightly from bank to bank, but valid documents typically include:
  • A government-issued photo ID. It could be a driver’s license, for example, or a state ID.
  • Passport with photograph and birth certificate for minors.
  • Social Security card or ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues this identification number for those who do not have a Social Security Number. Having a Social Security Number to open a bank account is not mandatory. Some banks and credit unions may accept documents, such as a consular identification card with a photograph to verify identity.
  1. Proof of address: An up-to-date and valid document showing the customer’s name and address. This information could be found in a utility or cable bill, for example—any payment document that provides both pieces of information—or even the rental agreement for the apartment where you reside.
  2. Money: When opening the account, you need to make an initial deposit, which can be the minimum required by the institution or more. You can deposit with cash, a check, or a transfer.

Business Bank Account

If you’re opening a bank account for your business, make sure you prepare and bring the following documents with you:

  1. Documents regarding the structure of your business detailing who is in charge of finances and how it operates. For corporations or LLCs, this may include articles of incorporation or articles of organization—anything about the company’s name, purpose, structure, and basic administration.
  2. Ownership agreement outlining the rights and responsibilities of each business owner.
  3. A certificate with the legal name of your business.
  4. A business license if it is necessary to operate legally.
  5. Personal identification of the business owner, similar to those required for individual accounts.
  6. Employer Identification Number issued by the IRS.
  7. Money for an initial deposit.

What questions should you ask the bank when opening an account?

Before walking into a bank branch, have a list of questions prepared to help you determine which account will work best for you and your financial needs. Some of those questions may be: 

  1. What are your monthly maintenance fees, and how can I avoid those fees?
  2. Are there any fees associated with different services, including ATM fees within and outside the network, or overdraft fees, and how can they be reduced or eliminated?
  3. What is your process for accessing funds from abroad?
  4. Do you have any current offers or discounts with opening accounts or credit cards?
  5. What is your current interest rate for depositing into a savings account?
  6. For a business banking account, what are the monthly transaction limits? And what additional banking services would I have access to, including loans, credit cards and line of credit?

What if you want to save for a few years from now?

Whether it’s to prepare for retirement, or maximize the return on cash for a down payment on a house, many banks have financial experts who can recommend different strategies and investment products to grow your money over the years.

Choose to work with a financial advisor who you can create a strong relationship with and are comfortable expressing concerns and expectations. Keep in mind in some cases, financial advisors may receive a commission deducted from a percentage of the assets they manage for their client and/or charge transaction fees.

All banks offer online access, but not all banks have branches. While digital banking, whether online or with an app, makes managing your finances convenient, having access to a physical branch where you can sit down with someone to discuss your personal or business financing needs may make all the difference. 

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