Banking Category Banking: the easy, simple banking guide

What documents are needed to open a bank account?

Opening a bank account isn't difficult, whether it's for personal banking or for a business.

However, banks must have specific documents in order to open any type of account for you -- this applies to brick-and-mortar bank accounts as well as online bank accounts. Although the requirements for personal and business accounts differ, knowing ahead of time what documents and identification you'll need can save you time and inconvenience.

Types of Bank Accounts

Bank accounts fall into two general categories: personal banking and business accounts. Although there is some overlap, there are different documentation requirements for each.

For the most part, those requirements are set by federal or state laws so they are very similar from bank to bank. The requirements are also pretty much the same regardless of the type of account (checking, savings, money market, etc. ).

Opening Bank Accounts: Identification Required

Federal law requires certain personal identification documents to open a bank account. You need a valid photo ID such as a driver's license, state-issued or military ID. Non-citizens must provide their alien registration number.

You must have your Social Security number and proof of your address (a utility bill or apartment lease will do). You should provide a current e-mail address. If you are going to electronically transfer the initial deposit from another bank account, you'll need the bank name and the check routing number and account number.

Online Bank Accounts

You can open a personal banking account online with most banks with the same information and documents. You simply enter the required information from the documents, then print your application and mail it to the bank.

You must provide photocopies of some documents, so be sure to make copies of the ones you need and include photocopies with the application. If you are applying in person, just take the documents with you.

Business Bank Accounts

For business accounts, you have to go to the bank in person to open the account. You need personal identification (the same as above) plus additional documents--either your business license or incorporation certificate. Check with the bank, because it may require the Memorandum and Articles of Association. If you want to accept checks and electronic fund transfers in your business name, you must register a Fictitious Business Name (FBN) or Doing Business As (DBA) name with the local department of records and file it with the county clerk.

Considerations for Opening a Bank Account

Although the documentation for any type of bank account is fairly well standardised, banks offer a wide range of financial products and accounts. In most situations you'll be wise to open a bank account in person. Make an appointment with a bank representative and discuss your needs. The representative can help you select the right account(s) and other services to meet your needs.