How to Open a Checking/Debit Account

Welcome to the first step in your financial wellness journey! Opening a checking/debit account is a necessary tool to safely and securely deposit your money. These types of accounts have gone by many names over the years, such as share draft accounts, checking accounts, and even today, the account name is evolving once again to be referred to as debit accounts. Whatever you choose to call it, the purpose of this type of account is to serve as a way to pay for goods and services by writing a check or linking a debit card. For this article, we’ll refer to them as “checking accounts”. Here is some helpful information and steps for how to open a checking account.

What you need to bring

When you go to open a checking account at your chosen credit union, pretend you’re going to the BMV. You’re going to need several documents to verify it’s really you, a bit of money, and an application.

  1. Application. To open a checking account, you will need to fill out an application. Credit unions have eligibility requirements that often determine whether you are qualified to join. These eligibility requirements are usually listed online.
  2. Identification. For your safety and security, we need to know it’s you. You may be asked to provide the following:
    1. Government issued photo ID or driver’s license
    2. Social security card
    3. Individual taxpayer card
    4. Passport
    5. Birth certificate
  3. Proof of address. Consider this your two-step verification. Bringing proof of your address is just another way for credit unions to ensure it’s really you who is opening an account. This will also help make sure the credit union records the correct address for when financial statements and important credit union letters are delivered to your home. These can be:
    1. Lease documents
    2. Mortgage documents
    3. Utility bills
    4. Credit card statements
    5. Anything that shows your name and the address of your residence
  4. Membership fee. To join a credit union, there is often a fee collected to open an account. The amount ranges from credit union to credit union but can be as little as $5. The fee can be collected by:
    1. Cash
    2. ACH transfer
    3. Debit card

What to consider before opening an account

Before you dive in, make sure you choose a credit union that is best for you. The credit union you choose should offer products built around your financial goals, like if you plan to get a new car soon, compare your local credit unions’ auto loan rates. Also consider the perks, such as services like money orders, checks, or rewards checking accounts. When you go to apply, make sure to ask what you’re getting in this partnership!

You’ll also need to consider service and ATMs. The biggest perk of a credit union is its dedication to its community, but that also means that credit union only has physical branches and ATMs located in that community. And yet, if they are a part of the CO-OP Shared Branch network, you will be able to find credit union branches and ATMs across the country ready to help with most of your transactions. This is perfect when you’re away from home and need access to your money.

Another consideration to take into account: do they offer online financial solutions? It’s great to go into your local credit union branch to see your community’s smiling faces, but it’s also nice to complete check deposits, apply for loans, and more from the comfort of your home. If this is important to you, make sure your future credit union offers online services.

At the end of the day, you need to pick a credit union that fits your financial plans. Then you can open up an account!