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Published on June 18th, 2018 | by Day Trader

How to Apply for a Checking Account

One of the most important steps in becoming an autonomous adult in the United States is being able to care for your own finances. The Federal Reserve estimates that 70% of all consumers have at least one credit card, and the 2016 Federal Reserve Payment Study found that debit card use grew from $2.1 trillion to $2.56 trillion between 2012 and 2015. In 2015 alone there were 69.5 billion transactions involving the use of a debit card.

Banking has moved online, but there are still 600 counties in the United States where community banks–which account for 99.5% of all American banks–only have a physical location. Even for banks with an online presence, it’s still often easier to apply for a checking account in person. If you’re ready to make application for new bank account, here’s what you need to do.

Find a Bank

Before you apply for a checking account, you need to decide which bank to use. Often the best choice when choosing a bank is to go with a community bank. America’s community banks hold nearly $5 trillion in assets and make $3.3 trillion in loans to individuals, agricultural entities, and small businesses. They may not be as large as some of the national banks with sophisticated online banking systems, but more and more are allowing online banking. They’re safe, easy for you to communicate with, and often better able to understand the needs of people in your community than an impersonal representative from a big financial institution.

Choose the Type of Account You Need

Not all bank accounts are the same, so when you are ready to apply for a checking account, make sure you understand the interest, fees, ATM options, deposit details, online bill pay options, and any rewards that might be offered. Make sure you know what the specifics are on insufficient funds, wire transfers, overdrafts, and direct deposit.

Decide Who Has Access

When you apply for a checking account, you’ll need to specify that account holders. This is likely to just be you, but if you want to share finances with someone for any reason you’ll need all their information as well as yours in order to apply for a checking account.

Gather All Your Information

To apply for a checking account, you’ll need two forms of identification, such as driver’s license, a state ID, a passport, or a birth certificate. You’ll also need your Social Security number and your date of birth. You’ll likely need some kind of proof of address, so bring a lease or a utility bill with your name on it. You’ll also need to bring an opening deposit, so it’s worth researching in advance what that has to be. Some checking accounts can be opened with as little as $25, though many accounts will be higher, especially if they’re interest-bearing accounts.

At the Bank

Sometimes you can fill out an application online, but other times you’ll need to or may prefer to do it in person at a physical location. If you’re approved, you’ll need to make your deposit and sign all the documents. You’ll then get deposit slips, personalized checks, and an ATM or debit card. The card will take a while to come and will need to be activated online or by phone. If you want your paycheck to go straight to the bank account, you’ll also need to set up direct deposit. Many banks will waive monthly fees if you have direct deposit, so talk to the payroll department at work.

It’s not hard to apply for a checking account, and whether you want a bank with lots of physical locations or banks with mobile banking, there are plenty of good choices. Decide what you need before you go, gather your materials, and then go join the rest of the world with your brand new bank account.

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