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How to open a bank account that's right for you

Salary Finance
By Salary Finance
3 minute read

If you want to open a bank account, it’s important to be well informed and to have the right documents, as well as making sure you open the type that's right for your needs.

To get started, you need to make sure you’re eligible to open an account. You need to be at least 18 years old and have a Social Security number in most cases. Accounts can be opened for individuals who are between the ages of 14 and 18 years old, but the account must be opened with a parent or legal guardian as the co-owner of the account. 

For every type of account, you’ll need to complete an application, and you’ll need to sign a signature card so the bank can verify it’s you. 

To open a bank account, you'll need:

  1. A government-issued photo ID like a driver’s license, state-issued ID, or passport. Some banks may require two IDs. A birth certificate, Social Security card, or a credit card in your name could serve as the second ID.
  2. Date of birth.
  3. Opening balance. Banks have different requirements, but checking and savings accounts don’t normally require more than $25 to open one. Be prepared to bring in cash or a check to fund your new account. Even if you don’t need very much money to open a bank account, watch out for monthly minimum balance requirements. Some banks may charge you a service fee if your balance falls below their minimum balance amount.
  4. Physical address. Although you can provide a mailing address, a street address is required under federal law.

If you’re wondering what kind of bank account you should open, ask yourself what you’ll be using your bank account for.

Here are the main types of accounts:

  • Checking account: Checking accounts are used for everyday spending and paying bills. You can order checks and a debit card that’s linked to the account to use for your purchases. Most checking accounts also offer online bill pay so you can create recurring payments or schedule bill payments. You can set up direct deposit for free so your employer can transfer your paycheck directly into your checking account on payday. Some banks will offer a nominal interest rate on your balance.
  • Savings account: You can earn a small amount of interest while saving money by opening a savings account. Don’t worry, you’ll still be able to access the funds quickly, but you usually can’t spend the money in a savings account as easily as if it was a checking account. Your options usually are a cash withdrawal made at the bank, a funds transfer to a linked checking account, or a wire transfer. Federal law limits how much you can withdraw from your savings account to a total of six withdrawal and transfer transactions per statement.
  • Money market account: Money market accounts are similar to a savings account but you’ll earn a higher interest rate. They may have some checking account-like perks, such as check-writing and an ATM card, but you’ll still be restricted to 6 withdrawals per month or you’ll face hefty fees and penalties.
  • Certificates of deposit (CDs): If you’ve saved a lump sum of cash that you won’t need in the next 6-8 months to cover a bill or emergency, a CD may pay you the best interest rate. You’ll earn more interest from a CD than a money market or savings account because you can’t touch your money for a fixed period.
    • The current national average rate for a certificate of deposit varies: 0.20% APY for three months, 0.38% APY for six months, 0.54% APY for 12 months and 1.06% for 60 months.

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