Sign me up for updates. Sign up now

Donate Take Action

Getting an account


How Do I Open an Account at a Financial Institution?

If you want a safe and secure place to store your money, an account at a federally insured bank or credit union may meet your needs. To open an account, you will need:

Primary identification.  This is usually a government-issued photo identification such as a:

  • Drivers license with photo, issued by a State or Territory of the U.S.
  • State- or U.S. Territory-issued identification card with photo
  • U.S. Passport with photo
  • Passport from country other than U.S., with photo and with a valid I-94 or I-551 card or stamp
  • Foreign issued ID such as the Matricula Consular issued by a Mexican consulate’s office

Secondary identification.  This can be anything from the above list not used as primary identification, such as a:

  • Birth certificate
  • Social Security Card      
  • Major or local debit/credit card embossed with name (does not include gift cards)
  • College ID of institution where applicant is currently enrolled
  • Utility bill with the name and address used for opening account
  • Rental agreement or lease for current residence—the address used for opening the account
  • Documentation of home ownership for current residence
  • Permanent resident card
  • Certificate of citizenship or naturalization

A Positive Banking History.

Even if you have the right documentation and money to deposit, opening an account at a bank or credit union may be difficult. Banks and credit unions use specialty consumer reports that tell them about your history managing accounts in the past.  If you have bounced checks, overdrawn your accounts, or still owe a bank or credit union fees, you may not be able to open any kind of account.  These same reports will also document if you have been involved with check kiting or other fraud associated with a bank account. Some banks and credit unions will also review your credit history before allowing you to open an account.  It is important to get, review, and fix any errors on your reports to ensure your credit is a good representation of your bill paying history.

Money. You will be required to make a deposit to open an account. The amount you need varies by institution.

Things to Consider Before Opening An Account

Think about how you manage your money:  

  • Do you get paid by a paycheck, a payroll card, or cash?
  • Do you use money orders or cash to pay your bills?
  • Do you have money left over at the end of the month and if so, what do you do with it?

Then think about the type of account that you are looking for:  

  • Do you want a place to deposit your paycheck and pay bills?
  • Do you want to establish a savings account and earn interest?
  • How many transactions will you make per month?
  • How much money will you keep in there at one time?

Finally, consider the actual financial institution:  

  • Do you need it to be close by so that you can make in-person transactions?
  • Do you want to be able to ask questions and get help from a live person rather than a voice on the telephone?
  • Do you need a location that is open on evenings or weekends?

With some thought and planning you can find the right kind of bank for you.

Tools to Help

Picking the Right Kind of Account

A checklist to help you choose a bank account


Opening an Account

A list of the items you need to bring with you when opening an account


Getting Proper Identification to Open an Account

If you don’t have identification to open an account, use these links to find out more information

Learn More

Show Hide Checklist


Information is great. But taking small steps now can lead to big changes.
  • Today
  • Think about how you get and use your money now and how you an account may help you do these things more effectively and efficiently?
  • Next Week
  • Identify a financial institution and an account that meets your needs.
  • During the Next Few Months
  • Open a new account. Make sure you have everything you need to open an account before visiting the bank or credit union you have chosen.