What Are the Requirements for Opening a Checking Account?

There are very few things you can do financially today without some form of checking account. However, committing to a certain bank typically comes with a variety of different financial responsibilities. While finding a convenient location for you to do your banking is typically a first priority, there are a few more things to consider before you set up your account. Asking a few important questions will help you to understand the responsibilities you have when establishing an account with your selected bank and will also help you determine which bank is right for you.

Is there a minimum balance requirement to open a checking account and to avoid a monthly fee?

Many banks require that you have a certain minimum amount to open a checking account. That amount often ranges anywhere from $25 to $100 or more, so it’s important to ask this question up front. Likewise, you’ll need to know if you need to maintain a certain minimum balance to avoid monthly fees. This minimum balance is where banks can really gouge you. If you’re unaware of the balance and drop below it, you’ll incur a fee for each time the balance drops below the requirement, and those fees are typically compounding.

Is a debit card attached to my checking account?

Most checking accounts today come standard; however, this is still an important question to ask. A debit card can make purchases much easier, so it’s an added bonus to have one. This question should also cover if there are any fees associated with having a debit card attached to your account.

Is my money safe?

This question is typically a top priority for individuals when deciding to open an account. Sinking all of your money into an account with one bank can be a bit unnerving, especially if you don’t know if your funds are secure. Ask this question up front and make sure your bank provides an adequate answer prior to opening the account. Today’s banks should be FDIC-insured. The FDIC, or Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, is an independent agency that guards the consumer against loss of money. In an FDIC-insured bank or savings association fails, its customers will be reimbursed, typically up to $100,000 per depositor per bank; however, additional coverage options may be available for different types of accounts. To determine whether a financial institution is FDIC-insured, you can call toll-free at 1-877-275-3342 or use the FDIC Institution Directory. Credit unions typically provide similar protection. Just be sure to ask the specifics prior to establishing your account.

Is online banking available?

Most banks today do offer online banking services. This option can be particularly beneficial for helping you keep track of your finances, set up automatic bill pay options, and more. However, in some cases, banks actually charge an additional fee for use of these online bill pay options. Before you establish your account, ask this question and take it under advisement. Should you really have to pay extra for a service that is costing the bank provider nothing? No, you shouldn’t. Something you may also want to consider is if there are any mobile banking options connected to your checking account.

How soon is my money available after I deposit it?

This is an important question to ask, particularly as you are just opening your account. Some financial institutions put holds on large or even small sums of money upon deposit. This literally means that some of your funds could be “frozen” for a short period of time after they are initially deposited. This practice is more of a safeguard for the bank, but it’s still important to know when you’ll have access to your monies each time you make a deposit.

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