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Opening A Checking Account: The Complete Guide

August 17, 2020 | Checking and Spending

Opening a checking account is a regular occurrence for kids and adults alike. With more transactions happening online, via apps, and with debit cards, it's a necessity for most.

While the process of opening a checking account is simple, it's important that you take all necessary steps to ensure you are choosing the best account for your financial needs. The goal is to not only to open an account but to get the most out of the features and terms that are available.

What To Expect When Opening A Checking Account

Most credit unions and banks have a very streamlined and straightforward process when opening a checking account. These are the general steps you should expect as you complete the process.

Gather your materials

Whether you opt to open a checking account at a credit union or bank, they will likely require that you have specific materials for your application.

These could include proof of your identity, such as a government-issued license with current address, physical and mailing address (if different), social security number, and date of birth. You might not need all of them, but it's better to have them available and not need them than not to have them at all.

Complete your application

You can visit your local branch to complete your application, and some offer the option to open a checking account online.

The form shouldn't take long and just collects some necessary information about you to keep on file. 

Make your opening deposit

Once your application is complete, including membership fee (if applicable), and your account is all set up, you can make your opening deposit. The amount could vary depending on the account you choose.

Receive your checking account items

You might get a temporary or instant-issue debit card and temporary checks if you open your account in the branch. Otherwise, you will have to wait until you receive them via mail.

That's it. The credit union or bank you choose might operate a bit differently, but in general, those are the basic steps required to open a checking account.

If you have questions about the process at your financial institution, you can ask them directly in advance of opening your account.

Do's & Don'ts Of Opening A Checking Account

The process of opening your account should be simple, but before you start, here are a few do’s and don'ts you should keep in mind:

DO shop around and compare

It's easy to go with the financial institution you know, you're comfortable with, or that all your friends and family members use. However, you will generally find the best terms and benefits when you compare what's available at different credit unions or banks.

DO read the fine print

There are many terms you should be aware of when you open a checking account so be sure to read the fine print on all of your documents.

Before you sign or agree to anything, make sure you understand the terms and conditions and ask questions if you don’t. Specifically, inquire about overdraft fees, minimum balances, fees if you don't maintain a minimum balance, ATM fees, and the terms related to any special incentives offered when you open a checking account.

DON'T skip smaller FIs

There are numerous large financial institutions with locations nationwide. They provide an excellent service to their customers but don't forget about the credit unions and smaller financial institutions in your town. You might find that a smaller financial institution can provide you with the level of service you expect and many of the perks you want.

DON'T forget good banking practices

Once you have your debit card and checks it's time to exercise sound financial practices.

Know how much you have at all times, don't spend more than you can afford, and always save a bit for a rainy day.

How To Get The Most From Your Checking Account

Most checking accounts come with a variety of benefits and features to entice customers to sign up. You want to take advantage of all of them to get the most from your checking account experience. Here are a few to consider.

Online and mobile banking

All information about your account, including your balance and transactions, are at your fingertips 24/7 with online and mobile banking.

It would help if you got in the habit of checking your account daily, so you're always aware of your current financial standing.

Enroll in overdraft protection

Overdrafting your account happens to the best of us. To avoid numerous denied transactions, you can take advantage of the overdraft protection options offered by your financial institution. 

Hopefully, you won't need it, but if you do, you'll be glad you signed up.

Use available features

Your account will likely come with a variety of features including bill pay, direct deposit access, remote check deposit, etc. When you can, take advantage of them, if they fit your needs.

Checking accounts are available to offer a level of convenience to make your life and managing your finances easier.

Open A Checking Account Today

When you're ready to open a checking account, we hope you consider Red River Credit Union. 

We offer more than five checking account options from our MembersChoice Premier Checking* with all of its great features**, to our Fresh Start Checking for those who have struggled with maintaining an account in the past, to our Varsity Club Checking for those under 18 who are learning valuable personal finance lessons.

*Monthly fee applies.

**Some benefits require activation, registration and/or enrollment.


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