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Open a DCU Free Checking Account

An account that helps you spend, earn and save, so you can focus on doing more of what you love.


Membership Required

Please note, membership is required to open a DCU Auto Loan. Visit our membership eligibility page for more information.

How to Open a Bank Account

July 26, 2023
Man standing with credit card and tablet, applying for a credit line increase

If you’re considering opening up a bank account, then congratulations! You’re already thinking responsibly about your finances. Opening a bank account is relatively simple to do, and can provide many benefits for you and your money.

Benefits of Opening a Bank Account

Access to Free or Low-Cost Services

Services such as cashing checks, transferring money, paying bills, and accessing cash are almost always offered at little or no cost to account holders. This can help you avoid the fees and inconveniences you might face when receiving these services from outside institutions.

Having a Bank Account is Convenient

With a basic checking account, you can easily withdraw money, pay bills online, and make purchases in stores with a debit card. Debit cards, such as the DCU Visa® Debit Card, are connected directly to your checking account and can be used at millions of retailers.

Your Money Will be Safe

Having a bank account ensures your money is protected from theft, fire, or any other of the liabilities associated with having your money at home. The best part? Your money is federally insured by the FDIC and NCUA for up to $250,000, meaning if something happens to your bank or credit union, you’ll get up to $250,000 of your money back.

Bank Accounts Can Help You Build Credit

Banks and credit unions value their relationships with account holders, and are usually happy to explore accommodating additional services such as loans and credit cards. If you ever need a credit card, car loan, mortgage loan, personal loan, or student loan, being an account holder may get you favorable treatment, especially if you’ve proven yourself to manage your money well.

You Can Save Money More Easily

Most financial institutions offer interest rates when you put your money into a savings account. This interest can help you steadily grow your money at a predetermined rate. Savings accounts can also be useful in setting aside money not meant for everyday expenses

How to Open a Bank Account

If opening a bank account sounds appealing, you may be asking yourself, “What information do I need to open a bank account?” While there are several documents needed to open a bank account, you should also be considering where you’d like to bank, and what type of accounts you’d like to have.

Gather Your Documents Together

No matter where you decide you want to bank, you’ll need to show some information to get the process started. Therefore, the first step to opening a bank account is to gather the necessary documentation. You’ll need:

  • A Government-Issued ID

This could be a driver’s license, a passport, or a military ID.

  • Your Social Security Number

If you’re not a U.S. citizen, you can instead present an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), or an alien identification number.

  • Proof of Address

To show your proof of address, you’ll need to find a valid bill, document, or statement that includes both your name and current address. This could be a utility bill, lease agreement, mortgage statement, or paycheck stub.

  • An Initial Deposit (If Required)

Some banks and credit unions require an initial deposit into new accounts as they’re being opened. At DCU, only a $5 initial deposit is required. Some institutions may require a deposit of up to $100.

Depending on what financial institution you’re using, there may be slight differences in what you need to start a bank account. It’s a good idea to either call or look online before starting the process.

Choose Where You’d Like to Bank

You have several different options when figuring out where to bank. You could choose to open an account at a credit union, a bank, or an online bank or credit union. While all these places provide similar basic services, such as checking and savings accounts, debit and credit cards, personal loans, mortgages, and more, different financial institutions can offer different advantages. Let’s discuss what sort of advantages are important to you.

The Size of the Financial Institution

Credit unions and banks can be either national, regional or community-based. There are often many tradeoffs based on size. While community-based financial institutions can feel more personable and intimate, national financial institutions often have the convenience of many locations, ATMs, and may offer superior online features.

Rates on Savings & Loans

Because credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions owned by their members, they often provide better rates on savings and loans. That means you get to accrue more interest in your savings account, and have to pay less interest when paying back a loan.

Online vs Brick-and-Mortar

There are some banks and credit unions with no brick-and-mortar locations. These institutions can sometimes offer superior interest rates and help to reduce fees, with little to no overhead costs to cover. While tech-savvy customers may be drawn to this type of financial institution, it’s important to note they have a reduced level of customer interaction and guidance.


While financial institutions often screen applicants based on credit history reports, credit unions require an additional hurdle–you must be eligible for a membership. To join a credit union, you must fall within their eligibility requirements, most commonly through your employer, family, geographic location, or memberships within certain groups. Explore the Membership Eligibility for DCU.

Once you’ve weighed the pros and cons of different financial institutions, it’s time to start thinking about the next step. It’s also important to note that it’s possible (and even recommended) to eventually hold accounts across more than one bank or credit union.

Know the Difference Between Different Types of Accounts

Different types of bank accounts serve different purposes. While there are many kinds of accounts to choose from, the two most common ones are checking and savings accounts.

Checking accounts are typically used for making payments and receiving direct deposits. They’re meant to be actively used, often fluctuating as payments flow in and out of the account.

Saving accounts, on the other hand, are meant to remain more stable. Savings accounts are for holding the money that you put aside for use in the distant future. Most financial institutions allow for savings accounts to accrue interest, making them a safe and responsible way to store money.

It’s a good idea to hold both accounts, using your checking for daily activities and your savings for long-term goals.

Now You’re Ready to Open an Account

Once you’ve gathered the proper documentation, chosen a bank or credit union, and come to understand different accounts, you’re ready to open your bank account! Opening a bank account can take as little as 15 minutes online, or a little longer in person. If applying online, there may be additional paperwork to print and mail if not all documents allow for e-signing.

What Happens Next?

Once you’ve opened up your account, it will be available to use within a few days, if not right away. You’ll likely receive a debit card in the mail, so check your mailbox frequently. The instructions for activating your new card will be included in the envelope and should be relatively simple. You might also be able to receive a free checkbook, depending on the policy of your financial institution.

You may also be eligible for different types of services for account holders, such as mobile deposit, online bill pay, and text message alerts. Depending on where you bank, they could offer additional services, as well! Explore your new bank or credit union to understand what benefits you can take advantage of. DCU offers free services such as Monthly FICO® Score Features, Text Alerts & Notifications, eStatements, Visa® Checkout, and more.

If you’re eligible for membership at DCU, take just five minutes to apply today and get started on your new bank account right now.

Please note, membership is required to open a DCU Checking Account. Visit our membership eligibility page for more information.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to serve as legal, financial, investment or tax advice or indicate that a specific DCU product or service is right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a financial professional.