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Money Management

09/01/2021

What Do I Need to Open a Bank Account? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

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We know you didn’t stumble upon an article titled “What do I need to open a bank account?” by accident. If you’re here, you’re likely diving into a new world where you could use some help. With so many options, it can be hard to know where to turn, and we get that. We also know that with a little direction, you’ll be well on your way to accomplishing great things. So let’s get started with choosing an account and then get to what you’ll need to open one.

Types of accounts

The first thing you should do when opening an account is decide what type of account you need. Most people need an account for one of two things. Spending or saving. So, with that in mind, here are the two accounts that make the most sense for most people:

  1. Spending/Checking Account
    If you’re looking for a safe place to store your money where you can still access it and spend what you need, then a checking account is what you are looking for. While not all checking accounts are the same, they all tend to function the same way. They are made for daily use, almost always come with a debit card, and give you the convenience of being able to use your money without having to carry it around in cash. Overall, this type of account is the most common.
  2. Savings Account
    If the reason you are looking to open an account is to put money away in order to achieve a future goal, then a savings account is what you need. Maybe you want to save up for a down payment on a home, or to pay for your children’s college expenses. If so, a savings account is where you should turn to keep your money safe and allow it to grow over time. Once you’ve decided which account works, you can see what banks offer in your area. At this point you will want to look at other factors like branch locations, online banking, or account fees for the account you are looking into. At Southern Bank we offer a number of accounts to choose from, which you can compare here.
What you need to know to open a bank account

What you will need to open an account.

When you’ve chosen the account you’d like to open, you’ll need certain personal information to open it. So, before you head to the bank, here’s a list of everything you’ll need to open an account:

  1. Legal Name (First Name, Middle Initial, Last Name)
  2. Your Physical Address, City, State, and Zip - If your address is different from what your ID shows, you may need to provide Proof of Address. This would be any current official document that has your name and address on it. (Ex. Utility bill, Mortgage Statement, etc.)
  3. Phone Number
  4. Social Security Number - While knowing your SS number may be enough, some banks may require you to have your card with you. If you have it, it would be smart to bring it with you just in case.
  5. Date of Birth
  6. Email Address
  7. Information from a government issued ID such as a Driver’s license, Passport, or Military ID. (If you aren’t a US citizen, but you are a Permanent Resident – you’ll need to provide information related to being a Permanent Resident.)
  8. Money to fund the account -
    a minimum deposit often ranging from $25 to $100 is typically required to open a checking or savings account. Most banks will accept cash, a personal check, or a Cashier’s check.

Ready to open an account? We offer the option of opening an account online or at one of our locations.

Once you’ve collected all the information you need to open an account, you may still have some questions about the process. Here are the answers to a few commonly asked questions to help guide you along the way.

What is the difference between opening an account online or in-person?

Not a lot actually. Whether you’re opening an account online or in-person, there are many things going on behind the scenes. When opening an account in-person, you get to work with a real person who enters your information into the system for you. They can troubleshoot any hiccups and assist you through every step. They can also provide more detailed information about the types of accounts they offer. If you open an account in person, you may have your debit card printed right away. If you open online, your debit card will be shipped to you, which may take around 10 days. While opening online is more convenient, going into a bank and working with someone could be easier if you run into any problems and would like to have your debit card right away.

Can I be denied a checking or savings account?

Yes, you could be denied a bank account, but this only happens if you have an outstanding debt with another bank. An example of this would be if you had an account with a bank previously and it was left overdrawn (you spent more money than you had and never repaid it) and the bank closed the account. This information will show up when a bank is verifying your information.

I’m not 18 years old – can I open an account?

Yes, but if you’re under 18, you may need to have an adult (18+) on the account with you. In this case, you’ll be opening what is called a “joint account”, and you’ll need all the same information for the other person when you go to open it.

Will my money be safe?

The answer here is a resounding yes, IF you deposit your money in a bank that is FDIC-insured. According to fdic.gov 1, “Since 1933, no depositor has ever lost a penny of FDIC-insured funds.” You’ll know the bank provides this type of insurance automatically when you see “Member FDIC.” Just make sure to look for it before opening an account.

When it comes to privacy, banks are required by law to keep your bank account information private. Even a federal government agency would have to obtain a subpoena to access it. So, if you are concerned about personal information like your bank balance or social security number getting out, you can rest assured that your money and information are safe and private in a bank account.

Are there any fees for having an account?

The answer here is typically yes, but there are often ways to avoid them so… no. But also… yes. Here’s an example to show you what we mean.

At Southern Bank we have a simple checking account called Southern Basic. It comes with everything you would expect from a checking account - online banking, debit card, mobile banking and deposits, etc. This account has a $2.00 monthly service fee, however this fee can be eliminated by either enrolling in electronic statements or by maintaining a monthly average balance of at least $2,500. While you may not keep your balance around $2,500 on average, simply enrolling in electronic statements is very easy. So while there is an account fee, you can easily avoid it.

How long does it take to open a bank account

Not long at all. Most banks have this down to somewhere between 10 to 30 minutes. Obviously if you forget some piece of information or if the bank is busy with people in front of you, it could take longer, but for the most part, it’s a quick process.

Have more questions? We have answers. Visit one of our locations today to get the help you need.

References:

1 “FDIC: Insured Bank Deposits are Safe…”, fdic.gov, March 18, 2020, https://www.fdic.gov/news/press-releases/2020/pr20032.html

2 Jason Steele, “Debit Card Statistics”, creditcards.com, June 25, 2021, https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/debit-card-statistics-1276/