Opening a checking account is a fairly simple process. You choose a bank, show up, fill out some paperwork, provide some documentation, and leave with a functioning account—most of the time.

Eligibility requirements for checking accounts are few. All banks require you to be 18 years of age or older, though most allow a minor to be a co-owner of a parent or legal guardian's account. Some banks turn you down if you have criminal convictions related to fraud or financial crimes or if another bank closed your account due to mismanagement, such as unpaid overdrafts.

Ensuring a Smooth Process

To ensure the process of opening your checking account goes smoothly and efficiently, bring the appropriate documents with you to the bank, including photo identification, your Social Security card, and proof of current address, such as a utility bill, cable bill, mortgage statement, or signed lease agreement. While not all banks require every one of these banking documents, it is better to have them and not need them.

Almost every bank requires you to present a valid, government-issued photo ID when opening a checking account. This verifies you are who you say you are and allows the bank to match your name to your face. The most common form of government-issued photo ID is a driver's license; if you lack one because you do not drive, you can go to most Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV, locations and receive an identification-only ID on the spot. To receive this ID, you must bring a birth certificate or valid passport and proof of address to the DMV.

Banks also require you to have either a valid Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to open a checking account. If you have an SSN, bring your Social Security card with you to the bank so it can verify the document. Otherwise, bring proof of your ITIN. If you have neither an SSN or ITIN, you can apply for an ITIN by filling out and submitting Form W-7 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Additional Requirements

You also need to bring a document that verifies your current address. While a few banks allow you to open a checking account using a post office box, most require you to include a physical address on the account.

An acceptable proof of address is any current, official document on which your name and your address are both clearly printed. Your most recent utility bill or cable bill should suffice; if you no longer receive paper bills from these companies, a billing statement printed from your online account also works. Other options to prove your address include a recent mortgage statement or a lease agreement signed by you and your landlord.