Thanks to strict government regulations and FDIC insurance protection, banks are extremely safe and convenient places to keep your money. If you're ready to open your very own account, all you have to do is follow these steps.
- Choose an account type. Today's financial institutions offer a wide range of accounts designed to meet the varied needs of customers. The first step towards opening a bank account is to read about the different kinds of accounts that are available to you, and then to select one that fits your needs. Two of the most popular kinds of accounts are checking and savings, but there are also money market accounts, retirement accounts, and investment accounts for you to consider.
- Select an institution. Once you decide what kind of account you want, your next step will be to choose a bank that offers the account. Although you might be inclined to do business with the bank that's closest to your home, that could be a mistake. Given the competitive nature of the banking industry, it would be better for you to shop around in order to locate a financial institution that has the best combination of features in the account that you want. The Internet makes it easy to conduct side-by-side bank comparisons, so start by checking out the websites of a few banks in your area. Things to look for include the minimum account balance required, the fees associated with maintaining the account, and the interest rate paid (where applicable).
- Read the fine print. Most banks have the terms of service for each account type posted on their Internet homepages. If you can't find the terms online or if you want a hard copy for your records, you can always go into a local branch and request one. It is imperative that you carefully review all of the details associated with your prospective account prior to opening it. In the fine print you'll discover how many checks you're allowed to write each month, how minimum balances are calculated, the penalties assessed for violating the terms of service, and other important information.
- Verify your identity. Due to section 326 of the Patriot Act, you might be asked to appear at the bank in person to present identifying documents prior to opening an account. In general, you'll have to verify your name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number. Most banks will accept a driver's license or passport for this purpose. In addition, you might be asked how you intend to fund or use your account. If you arrive at the bank with the proper documents and give satisfactory answers to any questions asked, the whole process can be completed in less than 30 minutes.
- Make your initial deposit. After presenting your documents and signing all of the required paperwork, the only thing left to do is make your initial deposit to officially activate your account. You can start with the minimum balance or deposit a larger amount; the choice is entirely up to you. Be sure to get some starter checks, a passbook, and/or request ATM cards prior to leaving.