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How Do I Open A Bank Account?

For many spouses, they have always shared their bank accounts during their marriage. Once the divorce or separation is finalized, you may either 1) keep the account and remove your spouse's name or 2) open a new bank account. This article will give you the basic steps for opening your own account today.

Choose a Bank or Credit Union

You can review banking options by visiting brick-and-mortar financial institutions or researching their website. You want to find a bank that you will have easy access to, either in your town and/or via an online portal. Details to look for include:

  • Account types - checking, savings, money market, etc.

  • Interest rates - what interest do you earn on the money sitting in your account?

  • Overdraft forgiveness policies - does the bank have a forgiveness policy if you accidentally take more out of your account than you have as a balance?

  • Account balance minimums - how much do you need to keep in each account, at a minimum, without being charged a fee?

  • Account fees - are there any fees associated with having an account?

  • Any other unique benefits, such as cash bonuses for retaining a set balance in your account

Consider whether you would prefer online banking institutions versus institutions with brick-and-mortar locations. An online institution may have more flexibility and benefits, but a brick-and-mortar institution has people who can assist you easily and in-person.

Pick Your Type of Account

Consider which type of account you may prefer. Common accounts include:

  • Checking - usually associated with checks and/or a debit card, this account is used for everyday spending

  • Savings - mainly used for saving money, rather than spending it

  • Money Market - account that pays interest based on current interest rates in the money markets.

  • Certificates of Deposit (CDs) - money is deposited for a set length of time for a higher interest rate, although the money cannot typically be used prior to the end of the term.

The banking institution will often offer a number of options for each type of account, including level of service and features. Determine which options may be most ideal for you.

Consider opening more than one account for different purposes. For example, a checking account may be used for daily expenses, while a CD may help you save for specific future expenses.

Provide Your Information

You must verify your identity to open a bank account. Be prepared when opening the account with the following documentation:

  • Identification, such as driver’s license

  • Social security card or similar document

  • Evidence of your address

  • Completed application and initial deposit (if necessary)

Be aware that many banking institutions will run your credit history. It can be more difficult to open a bank account with bad credit, and you may be limited in what banking institutions you may use.

Fund Your Account

In most cases, you will need to make an initial deposit into your account. After the initial deposit, you may further fund it (i.e. add money to it) by:

  • Direct deposit from your employer via your paycheck

  • Cash or check deposits to the bank directly or through an ATM

  • Transfer funds from another account electronically

Be aware of the minimum balance on your account and make sure that you have safeguards in place to avoid overdrawing your account (also known as taken out more money than you have in your account). Many accounts will allow you to set up warnings via email or text.

Use Your Account

Depending on the type of account you choose to open, you may receive a debit card or checks. Typically, these will come in the mail within a week or two of opening the account.

Always remember to take advantage of the account benefits, such as signing up for text alerts or maintaining specific balances for higher levels of service from the financial institution.

Get to know your banking website to better understand your options, such as bill pay, direct deposit, or savings strategies that are offered as a part of the financial institution's services.

Now you have your bank account open and you can start using it to build towards your financial future.

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