Regardless of your financial situation, it is always good to have access to a checking account. This allows you to avoid the fees that banks and other financial institutions charge when you need to cash a check. There are several more benefits to opening a basic checking account. It can help you save money over time and allow you more options for sending or receiving money.
How to Open A Checking Account
Opening a bank account may sound intimidating but it doesn’t have to be. Many banks have a variety of accounts available designed to suit the various needs of their customers.
Opening an account is even easier now than it was 20 or 30 years ago because most banks will allow you to apply and set up everything online. But you still have the option to go to your local branch if you prefer.
After submitted a few details about yourself such as your name, address and phone number, a credit check is performed (with most financial institutions) using your social security number.
Then once approved you can make your opening deposit. This is often a predetermined amount between $25 and $200. If you are unable to make your deposit while applying online, many banks will allow you to finalize your application by making your deposit at one of their locations or mailing in a check or money order.
The bank will provide you with all the information you need such as your account number and routing number, a list of fees, and starter checks either by mail or in person.
What Are My Options for Opening a New Checking Account?
A basic checking account allows you to write checks and have access to your funds. Most these days will also provide you with a check card or debit card that you can use instead of writing paper checks.
There are often several banks in each community, many are large regional or nationally owned banks that have branches in other states. Others may be local community banks with just a few locations nearby. Sometimes, larger banks offer more perks to their customers and it can be an advantage to have so many branch locations or ATM machines available. Yet, there are also benefits to opening an account with a local bank, mainly because the employees are often people you know.
Do I Need a Checking and Savings Account?
Banks will usually recommend opening up a savings account along with your new checking account. These accounts will earn interest and help you save money over time. Some banks also offer the option to use a savings account as a backup funding source when your checking account balance is too low. Keep in mind that savings accounts will have a limit on how many times you can withdraw and how much within a particular time period to help ensure that you are saving money.
Is My Money Safe?
The money in your checking account is FDIC-Insured. While you may be familiar with the logo, many people do not fully understand what the letters stand for. The FDIC or Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is an agency of the United States government. They protect account holders against the loss of any deposit if your bank fails to do so. This protection is often offered at $100,000 per account holder, per bank. Keep in mind that the FDIC will only protect your funds if your bank fails to do so. It will not protect your account due to poor investments.
What if I Have Bad Credit?
Bad credit on your record could be a problem with some banks. There are several national and regional banks, as well as local financial institutions, that use ChexSystems or Telecheck. These organizations keep track of bad credit, overdrawn accounts and bounced checks. If you have bad credit, it would be best to find a bank that doesn’t use these organizations. Keeping track of your credit report and score can help you determine if ChexSystems or Telecheck would be a problem for you.
Understanding the Fine Print
The fine print that is often ignored contains some very important details about your new checking account. Be sure you find out about the following before you finalize all the details regarding your new account.
- A complete list of account fees with details.
- A list of ATM fees and location information.
- Information on any debit card fees you need to know about.
- If you are not opening a free checking account, find out how many, if any, free checks you can write each month.
- Get details about ordering copies of cancelled checks if they are not included in your monthly statement.
- All customer service information for your account.
- How to contact your bank after hours if your ATM card is stolen or you have other urgent questions.
- How to access online banking.