Guide to Opening Your First Checking Account

Establishing your first bank account may not be meaningful to you, however it could be an important decision. Settling for the bank or credit union that your family banks at can be convenient but might not be beneficial for you. You should shop around and find the best financial institution that fits your needs as your needs are going to be different than your family’s needs. The question still stands, how do I get started in finding a checking account?

Opening your first checking account is one of the first steps to being financially responsible. It should matter where you bank. When picking out your first checking account there are some insights you want to be aware that can guide you to the right place.

Be sure to review the following topics to help you find the perfect checking account.


It is important to ask about any fees that could occur on the account. There could be maintenance, overdraft, ATM, or statement fees. Make sure you look at the fee schedule. This is something that everyone should get in their welcome packet/folder. This document lists all the fees that can occur and how to avoid them if necessary. It’s important to know what fees you could be charged as fees can cause an account to go into the negative if you are not aware of them.

Online/ Mobile Banking

In today’s world, most institutions offer online and mobile banking. It is a good idea to explore all the different features of it. Mobile and online banking are very convenient and helpful as you learn the essence of banking. Even if you do not intend to use all the features of online banking, just enrolling and seeing your account is beneficial. You want to make sure you can watch your account in case any fraudulent activity occurs. When choosing a financial institution, make sure the online and mobile banking portal is user friendly and easy to use.

Debit Cards

Most institutions automatically have a debit card set up with every checking account. For people who are opening their first checking account, make sure you understand how to use the debit card. It can be just as simple as just swiping or tapping your card at a store, but you should know when the funds are taken out of your account. Some merchants can hold your funds for a couple of business days. Another thing with debit cards, you want to make sure you understand overdraft payment options. Some banks or credit unions have different policies on paying any transactions that could cause you to overdraft. Make sure you are aware of this when signing up for a checking account.

Student Accounts/ Age Requirements

Banks or credit unions sometimes offer specific accounts just for students or people ages from 16-21. Some of these accounts have special incentives that could help you get started in the banking industry. These incentives could be waived fees, direct deposit bonus, e-statement bonus, etc. When choosing a bank or credit union, ask about student accounts first before settling on a regular checking account.

The final thing you want to think about when selecting your checking account is the customer service and products beyond checking accounts. It is good to get into a habit of building a strong relationship with your chosen bank or credit union. As a student, you might not think about loans, mortgages, or even retirement, however when that time comes, it is your first instinct to go to your financial institution to start. It would be more convenient for you to pick a bank or credit union that could help you with your future needs.

Wherever you choose to open your first checking account, do not be afraid to ask questions and shop around. It is important to trust your financial institution and you want to make sure you feel comfortable in the branch.

Check out our Why Bank with a Credit Union article to learn more about the difference between banks and credit unions and why you might want to consider a credit union as your financial institution.

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