How to Open a Bank Account


Many Americans rely on retail outlets for financial services instead of using banks and credit unions. Often these households lack access to safe and affordable financial services. However, a bank account is an essential and necessary step to building financial security.

A bank account can be convenient if you need a place to make deposits, pay bills and cover everyday spending. Unfortunately, 23% of the population does not have a bank account or qualifies as underbanked. Opening a bank account has many benefits, and at UNest, we want to demystify the process. Here is what you need to know.

Step 1: Decide what type of account you need

Checking account: Designed for depositing money that you’ll use to pay bills or cover expenses with a linked debit card or by writing checks. Some checking accounts earn interest or offer rewards, but that’s usually not the primary purpose of checking accounts. 

Savings account: Earn interest, and both are designed to hold the money you don’t plan to spend right away. You can use a savings account for an emergency fund or car down payment.

Money market account: money market accounts offer debit cards or check-writing capabilities. Often there are limited numbers of withdrawals, whereas checking accounts are not subject to these limitations.

Step 2: Bring what you need to open a bank account

You’ll need at least four things:

  1.     Government-issued photo ID
  2.     Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  3.     Minimum initial deposit
  4.     Application


  1.     Some banks and Credit Unions require more than one form of ID
  2.     Have your address, phone number, and email ready
  3.     For joint accounts, that person also has to provide their ID and Social Security number.

How Much Money Do You Need to Open an Account?

Every bank is different when it comes to how much money you’ll need to deposit into a new account. Some banks, for example, may let you open a bank account with no minimum deposit required or a minimum deposit as low as $1. Others may expect you to have amounts ranging into the thousands of dollars to open a new account. You can use cash, ACH transfer, or a check that’s written out to you to make your initial deposit.

Final Thoughts

Some banks require further verification before you can start using your new account. For example, the bank might make one or two small test deposits if you’re linking an external account. You will have to verify those amounts to activate your account.

There likely will be a holding period on your initial deposit, and you may have to wait a few days for your debit card or first order of checks to arrive.

Be sure to keep a close eye on your balance once you’ve opened your account. Follow the guidelines from our Savings article, and you’ll be on your way to financial success!


College Savings Calculator is a hypothetical tool that demonstrates how monthly contributions, age-based asset rebalancing, and tax savings may impact the long-term value of your account, and do not take into account a portfolio’s underlying investment management fees. Calculations assume the private institution cost inflation is 2.8%, public out of state cost inflation is 3.9%, public in state cost inflation is 2.7%. Portfolio is assumed to have only stocks and bonds. Monthly equity returns are based on the historical data from the 10-year track record of the stock market (SPY). Monthly fixed income returns are based on the historical data from the 10-year track record of the bond market index (AGG). The current college expenses are provided by the Actual account performance may differ due to market fluctuations, changes in recurring investments, and asset allocation. The information provided here is for illustrative purposes only and does not represent actual or future performance of any investment option and is not intended to predict or project the investment performance of any security or index.