Can Anyone Open a Bank Account?

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Even minors can get away from the piggy bank if you are on their new bank account.
Even minors can get away from the piggy bank if you are on their new bank account. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Most people get a savings or checking account at a bank. This lets you earn interest or other perks, like cash back in some cases. It also provides the security of holding your money in an institution that's insured by the government. Just about anyone can open a bank account, but three major restrictions exist.

Residency

Most banks ask you to provide some proof of residency to open a checking or savings account. A utility bill with your current address on it usually is sufficient, as is a current driver's license. If for some reason you don't have these basic items, you can turn to your Social Security number and other documents like your birth certificate. You don't necessarily have to be a U.S. citizen to get an account -- you can get an account if you're in the U.S. legally as an immigrant or alien. Banks just want you to be residents because it is so much harder legally to regulate accounts for foreigners.

Minors

In general, on your own, you can't get a bank account as a minor -- usually "minor" refers to anyone under 18, although some states have different ages at which you're recognized as an adult. This is because most states have contract laws that don't allow minors to sign legal contracts such as those for account agreements. You can get a bank account as a minor if your parent or legal guardian agrees to cosign or be listed on the account, however. Doing this means your parent or legal guardian is legally responsible for the account. The bank in which you are interested can tell you what regulations apply in your state.

ChexSystems

ChexSystems is a major credit reporting agency similar to the major credit bureaus, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. This agency tracks how you handle your bank accounts. For example, a bank may report you to ChexSystems if you bounce checks or keep overdrawing your account. Just as lenders look to your credit report, banks look at your ChexSystems report to see if you will be a liability to the bank. If you have a poor ChexSystems report, you might not be able to open an account, as negative items stay on your ChexSystem report for up to five years. Some banks do not report to ChexSystems and use this as a selling point to people who have had financial trouble, but these banks are hard to find.

Considerations

With the Internet and technology changing the face of business, banks are changing the way they let customers open accounts. Many let you open accounts online. This makes it easier to get an account, and some banks even operate almost entirely online. To discourage fraud, a good bank still will require you to provide residency and other information through a secure online account-opening service. In addition, although banks can create certain accounts that cater to a certain niche of the bank market, no bank should discriminate for general bank accounts in terms of sex, religion or similar factors.

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