What Do I Need to Open a Bank Account?

Last updated May 27th, 2021

Having a bank account is a necessary step for the vast majority of people in the U.S. It is essential to receive your salary and other payments, as well as making purchases and covering other daily expenses. It is also often necessary to prove sufficient funds to rent or buy a house, get a loan, and often to obtain a visa for your holidays abroad.

So what documents do you need to open a bank account in the United States? What forms of ID are necessary and do you have to provide your birth certificate? Keep reading to find all the information you need.

Who Can Open a Bank Account in the U.S.?

It is important to understand that there are several types of accounts available to accommodate the different needs of bank customers in America.

Normally, the most basic type of account opened for daily use in the U.S. is called checking account. However, you may want to consider other kinds of accounts according to your specific needs and circumstances.

The requirements to open a checking account are quite simple: account holders must be 18 years of age and legal U.S. residents. Some banks may have stricter requirements so you should always check with the provider of your choice.

Please note that minors under the age of 18 may be allowed to be listed as a joint account holder with their parent or legal guardian.

Necessary Documents to Open an Account

Again, each bank will have their own requirements and necessary documentation. However, as a rule of thumb, you must prove your age, identity, and nationality/residency status.

Here is a list of necessary documents that you may be asked when opening a bank account:

  • Government-issued ID: this may be, for example, your passport, driver’s license, military identification card, or birth certificate
  • Social security number or individual taxpayer identification number. This is necessary for the bank to report any interest income you may earn to the IRS
  • Proof of address: nowadays, very few banks allow you to open an account with just a post office box. In most cases, you will need to provide proof of your current physical address with, for example, a recent utility bill, or rental agreement

It is important that you check with the bank what documents are accepted as proof.

Can I open a bank account without a REAL ID-compliant document?

After 9/11, REAL ID compliance was created for better identification checks and security. Without a REAL ID-compliant document, you cannot access federal facilities, board commercial aircraft and nuclear power plants in the U.S.

REAL ID-compliant documents can be easily identified by the gold star they are marked with. If you do not have one, do not worry: REAL ID compliance is not necessary to open a bank account in the United States. You just need an eligible regular ID document.

Minimum Deposit to Open a Bank Account

Many wonder whether they need money to open a checking account. In this case, the money you leave in the bank when you sign your papers is called minimum deposit.

Many banks require a minimum deposit for all or some of their accounts so you should always check before you go. However, keep in mind that minimum deposits are usually very small sums, especially for checking accounts. Typically, you may be asked to deposit between $15 and $50. Some banks do not ask this at all.

How to Open an Account without a Passport

If you do not have a U.S. passport, you may still be able to open a bank account in the U.S. If you are an American citizen, there are other ways to prove your identity — ask the bank what documents you can take to your appointment instead.

If you have lost your passport or your document has expired, it is a good idea to get it replaced. Make sure to have your birth certificate and other passport requirements ready.

If you are a foreign citizen, there are accounts available to you. It is likely that, on top of your valid foreign passport, you may have to bring more documents to prove your identity and residency status. These include, for example, a valid visa and/or other immigration documents.