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  1. Open a Bank Account in Washington

Open a Bank Account in Washington

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There are several options out there when opening a bank account. These include several banks, credit unions, and bank account types you can go with. It is important to establish your financial goals to help guide you in your decisions and to make the most of your account. Generally, after you’ve made your choice on what account and bank works best for you, the steps for signing up for a bank account is pretty easy!

Do I need a bank account?

Not every American has a bank or feels they qualify for one. Approximately 5.4 percent of U.S. households or 7.1 million Americans are unbanked according to the 2019 FDIC survey.

Although not everyone has a bank account, having one provides advantages to the holder. A major advantage is safety. Bank accounts are much safer than holding cash on hand or storing it within your home as your money is more susceptible to theft and fire. Up to $250,000 of your money is federally insured so if your FDIC-insured bank or NCUA-insured credit union were to close, you will still get your money back. Having an account also makes it easier to manage your finances. Keep reading on to learn more about the advantages of each of the bank account types that you can choose from. We will also be covering Washington state specific bank account opportunities that you may want to consider.

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What are the steps of getting a bank account?

Once you’ve made the decision, you can follow the basic steps below to open an account.

Step 1: Choose your financial institution

There are three basic types of financial institutions. These include banks, credit unions, and online banks and credit unions.

  1. Banks: For-profit institutions that offer most basic financial services. These can include loans, checking accounts, and savings accounts. The general advantages of a bank is that there are often useful online apps, tools, and features available to you that allow streamlined management of your finances. Some disadvantages include stringent eligibility requirements and higher transaction fees. Local banks, rather than larger more well known banks, can often provide lower fees.
  2. Credit Unions: This institution type is similar to banks but the main difference is that it is non-profit. Many people falsely think that they need to be a part of the military or work with the government to join them. This is untrue and your money will still be insured. The pros of credit unions include less rigid requirements, greater financial literacy resources, and similar insurance coverage as banks. The cons of credit unions include fewer physical branches and limited financial product offerings.
  3. Online banks and credit unions: These operate entirely online and there is no branch to visit. You will be handling most of your service requests by yourself. The main advantage of this financial institution type is the lower fees. If you are comfortable performing most of your basic banking transactions yourself, this may be the best option for you.

When you’re shopping around for where you want to open your account, make note of the usage restrictions and fees. These costs can quickly add up, but institutions can often provide ways for you to avoid these additional fees. There may also be special offers for you if you’re a student, military member, first time customer, etc. Talk to your institution of interest to see what opportunities they may have that are available to you.

Step 2: Choose your bank account type

Once you’ve decided which bank to go with, you need to choose what account type you would like. There are a variety of options available. These include the following:

  1. Checking accounts: Typically consumers use this account type for everyday spending. Checking accounts are linked to a debit card used for purchases or ATM withdrawals. You can use this account type to deposit cash or check and pay your bills.
  2. Savings Accounts: People use this type of account to set aside money for future use. This money collects interest over time and is often the first official bank account consumers open. For instance, young adults may open this account to save money earned from their first job and to manage their finances while in college.
  3. Money Market Accounts: This account combines features of checking and savings accounts. They collect interest at higher rates than checking or savings accounts and offer limited check-writing privileges. This account type may be an excellent option for those who carry high balances in their checking account and want to earn interest while still maintaining the ability to write checks.
  4. Certificate of Deposits: These accounts are similar to savings accounts but hold your money for only a certain period of time, such as three months. Often, you must commit to keeping your money in the certificates of deposit. This account type is ideal for financial goals with a planned end date.

In general, a good rule of thumb is to choose an option with a mix of features that suit your financial needs and goals with fees that meet your budget.

Step 3: Visit the branch in-person or website.

If you have access to the internet and a computer or mobile device, you can often open your bank account remotely through the website of your desired institution. You can open the account anytime and anywhere if you do so online. Be careful that you do not go into an imposter site with similar names as your desired bank account.

If you prefer to open your account in person with the advantage of having a banker answer all your questions there, you will need to visit them during their business hours. Either way you decide to open your account, make sure to have the following with you:

  1. Government Issued ID (e.g. driver’s license, passport, or military ID)
  2. Your social security number
  3. Your physical and mailing address
  4. An initial deposit

Step 4: Consent to the terms

The next step to opening your account is to agree to the terms and conditions of the account. This step is completed once you hit “I agree” online or sign your contract in person. Make sure you understand what you are signing and ask any questions you have.

Step 5: Make your initial deposit

Often as part of opening an account you will need to make an initial deposit. This can be done through cash, check or money order, direct deposit, or transfer of funds electronically.

Step 6: Start using your account

For checking and savings accounts you will receive a debit card in the mail. You may desire a checkbook to make note of your spending. These are many features you can take advantage of when using your account. This can include:

  1. Online bill pay: This allows you to pay bills electronically.
  2. Remote Check deposit: This will allow you to deposit money remotely so you don’t have to go in person to the bank.
  3. Alerts: You can sign up for alerts to know when your account balance is running low or when there are large withdrawals made.

What are some Washington specific resources?

The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions protects you and aims to help advance the financial health of Washington State by regulating financial services and educating consumers on how to make informed financial choices. You can verify a license, improve your financial education, file a complaint, and perform other actions through the following link.

Does my financial history matter?

Your financial history does not need to be perfect to open an account. However, it can affect the bank’s decision to approve your application. Many banks may check your credit and bad credit may sometimes lead to denials. Make sure to ask customer service if you have any concerns about this.

How long does it take to open a bank account?

Once you’ve decided what institution and bank account you want to open, the application process can take as little as 15 minutes to complete. It may take a couple of days for the bank to verify your information.

How do I open a joint bank account?

If you want to open a bank account with another person, you need the personal information of all the account holders and a signature from each of them. It is easiest to have everybody together when opening the account.

If you have any additional questions, speak to your banker or financial advisor for assistance.