Thinking about opening a new checking account? Whether you’re switching banks or opening your first account, you may have questions about how to open a bank account and the required documents you’ll need to get started.

Most banks allow U.S. citizens and permanent residents over 18 to open a bank account in person or online. If you aren't a citizen or permanent resident, such as an international student, you may need to visit a branch in person with the appropriate documentation to get started.

Opening a bank account is a relatively straightforward process, but it helps to educate yourself before beginning. Here's what you need to know.

What Do I Need To Open A Bank Account?

Many banks offer the option of opening a bank account online or in person. Whatever process you choose, the documentation needed is generally the same — banks want to verify your personal information and may require an initial deposit.

Typically, you'll need to provide:

  • A U.S. government-issued photo ID
  • Personal information, such as Social Security number, date of birth, and U.S. residential address
  • Funds for a deposit (some banks do not require this)

However, check with your financial institution of choice first; that way, you'll have the best information. Having everything ready ahead of time can help streamline the process and get your new bank account up and running quickly.

What Forms Of Personal Identification Are Acceptable For Opening A Bank Account?

Banks often ask for two forms of personal identification and proof of residence. Usually, U.S. government-issued photo IDs are accepted.

These can include:

  • A driver's license
  • A military ID
  • A state ID
  • A passport or passport card

These documents help the bank verify your identity and residence in the U.S. Some banks may also accept a school ID or letter of enrollment as a form of identification if you're a college student and eligible for a student bank account.

What Other Documents Might I Need To Open A Bank Account?

In addition to a government-issued photo ID, banks may ask for other documents as the second form of personal identification.

These may include:

  • Social Security card
  • Alien registration or permanent resident card
  • Individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN)

These documents add another layer of verification for the bank, prove your identity and current place of residence, and help safeguard you from potential identity theft.

In some instances, you may need to provide additional documentation depending on the bank account being opened.

For example:

You may also need to provide a Tax Identification Number when applying for a business bank account.

Minors applying for bank accounts with co-signers or those opening joint accounts may need to provide personal information and documentation for each person listed on the account.

Your bank may also ask for an email and phone number for contact purposes.

Can I Open A Bank Account Without Documents?

By law, banks must verify your identity before opening a bank account[1]. If you don't have a Social Security number, you may still be able to open a bank account. While a Social Security number may be preferred for tax reporting reasons, some banks may not need this number to open an account[2]. However, you'll still need to provide an acceptable replacement for a Social Security number, such as an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number or passport.

How Much Money Do I Need To Open A Bank Account?

Some banks do not require a minimum deposit, while others require between $25 - $100 once approved. If you need to make an initial deposit, there are a few options:

  • Write a check for the amount
  • Provide cash
  • Transfer funds from another bank account

Depending on your account, some banks may require a minimum balance threshold for better rates or waived account fees.

Check with the bank to determine whether an initial deposit is required, your options for providing the funds, and if there are any balance requirements.

How To Open a Bank Account

Now that you feel more comfortable with what's needed to get started, here's how to open a bank account step-by-step.

Step 1: Choose A Bank

The first step may be the most important. You want a bank that meets your needs, so research your options. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • Initial deposit requirements
  • Minimum balance requirements
  • Account fees, including monthly maintenance and overdraft
  • The interest rate on savings accounts
  • Branch and ATM locations
  • Any perks or rewards
  • The types of accounts offered

Step 2: Confirm The Requirements

Once you've picked a bank, browse the website, or call to find out what you need to open a bank account. Make a list of the necessary documents and note whether you can open an account online, along with the age and citizenship requirements.

Step 3: Pick Your Accounts

Review the bank’s website to determine which accounts are the best for your needs. Most banks offer some combination of checking and savings accounts. However, you may find a few different options within each account type. Review the materials, look at the balance fees and minimums, and don't hesitate to contact the bank with questions.

Step 4: Start the Application Process

Now it's time to start opening your bank account. With your documents ready, visit a local bank branch or apply for an account online. From there, follow the instructions to provide your personal information, proof of address, and any other documentation needed. If the bank requires an initial deposit, you’ll need to cover it at this time too. You can make it via electronic transfer for online account openings.

Open A Bank Account Today

Opening a bank account can help you start on the path toward building your financial future — it's a great first step for managing money. Now that you know what you need to open a bank account, it's time to explore the options.

Learn more about PNC's Virtual Wallet® Checking Account.