Checking accounts are one of the most common financial tools that bank account holders possess. Almost everyone is familiar with checking accounts, but there are some details that may have escaped the general knowledge. Checking accounts are bank accounts that a depositor can draw funds from via check. Transaction terms to know include “debit” and “credit.” A debit is a withdrawal from a checking account. A credit is a deposit. There are multiple ways to access the funds in your checking account. Banks usually make it straightforward for people to withdraw from their checking. Checking accounts tend to provide fast transactions and point of sale recording of the transaction. Generally, money into a checking account does not last long. You draw from it to pay bills and other day-to-day expenses. Checking accounts and savings accounts are different in several ways. There are also fees associated with checking accounts to be aware of as well.
Checking Versus Savings Accounts
There are differences between checking and savings accounts, and there are similarities. Checking accounts are useful for regular, daily transactions. You might be buying a cup of coffee, getting groceries, paying for school supplies, or similar transactions. The minimum balance varies based on your bank. Going below the minimum balance can result in penalties, as discussed in the next section. No interest accrues on checking accounts. There is a high level of liquidity.
Savings accounts, by contract, accrue interest. They are not useful for everyday transactions, because taking money out of your savings will not let the money gain interest. Savings accounts allow you to save money for long-term (or short-term) use. Generally, the period for which you should allow your account to sit is three to six months.
Fees Associated with Checking Accounts
There are several types of fees that come with checking accounts. Anyone should be aware of these fees so that you are not taken by surprise. There may be fees for starting a checking account, causing an overdraft in your checking account, or closing a checking account. While there might be some fees a bank imposes on your savings account, they can differ based on the type of account. Also, there can be ATM fees. At an ATM, you withdraw your money—it’s kind of like a mini bank. If you use your bank’s ATM, you are usually fine, fee-wise. But using another bank’s ATM may cost you a fee between two and six dollars, usually. In general, you should be able to use another bank’s ATM if you’re in a pinch and need to.
How to Open a Checking Account
If you want to open a checking account, there are some things you need to know beforehand so that you are prepared. First, choose the financial institution in which you want to hold your account. Compare and contrast different rates, fees, and benefits to ensure you’re selecting the best one. If you’re a student, you should check to see if there are any benefits that are college-specific. After selecting your financial institution, you should gather documentation.
Banks need to know who you are before they let you open a checking account. You will, of course, need government-issued identification. This is a driver’s license, military ID, passport, state ID, or something similar. Student IDs and non-government IDs won’t work. You will also need to have your Social Security number on-hand. Bring your card if you don’t remember it off the top of your head (though you really should try to memorize it). Look at your bank’s specific rules to see if you need anything else, such as more than one type of ID.
Bring a minimum deposit, too. Banks have minimum rules for making deposits, and each one is different. Bring cash with which to make the deposit. Tell the bank that you want to open a checking account, and a bank official will set it up for you. The bank will issue you a debit card, but that takes a few days to mail to you. Plan on that—you probably won’t be able to take out money right away.
Checking accounts are common. They provide fast financial tools for holders to draw money from. Checking accounts can incur fees when overdrawn. Overdraft fees can stack up, meaning that you should keep an eye on your bank account balance to avoid going too far. Checking accounts are easy to open, and banks do not make the process overly difficult. While there is some identification you need to provide, these documents should be easy to obtain.