People who rely on check-cashing services and piggy banks, and don’t have an account in a credit union or bank, miss out on the many benefits of managing their money at a financial institution. For example, an individual’s money is federally insured up to $250,000 if it is deposited in an account in a credit union or bank. Also, holding an account helps people establish credit and secure loans. To open an account, here are some necessary documents: 

Government-issued identification 

Almost all credit unions and banks require that people present a current, government-issued photo identification when opening an account. The photo ID verifies that the person is who they say they are. The most commonly used government-issued photo ID is a driver’s license. However, an alternative is a state-issued ID from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). In order to get the ID, people need to bring a birth certificate or valid U.S. passport, and proof of address; there is no test. Another identification option is a U.S. military identification card. If someone doesn’t have any of these, some financial institutions accept foreign passports and consular IDs, such as the Matricula Consular card. 

Social Security card 

To apply for an account at a credit union or bank, usually people are asked to share their Social Security number and card. Financial institutions need the Social Security number to report to the Internal Revenue Service if the account earns any interest income. An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) can be used instead. 

Proof of address 

Financial institutions usually ask new customers for proof of address. A proof of address is something that verifies a person’s current address, such as a recent utility bill – a cable television, water, electricity, internet, or cell phone bill. Anyone without a physical address could ask the financial institution if they can use a shelter as a physical address or use the address of someone who is next of kin. Some credit unions and banks may allow people to open accounts using a post office box. 

Initial deposit 

In addition to the documents used to verify their identity, people opening a checking or savings account may need to provide a minimum initial deposit. Traditionally, this amount ranges from $5 to $25. The amount varies, so check with the institution before opening an account.