How to Open Your First Checking Account

Are you ready to open your first checking account, but feel unsure how to get started? Or, are you tired of carrying around cash all the time, but worried you can’t get an account?

We want to help ease these concerns! Even if you are an undocumented immigrant, it is much easier than you might expect to open a checking account—and more importantly, it can help you build a financial history in the United States, while also providing a safe way to store your hard-earned money.

Plus, once you have your checking account set up, you can activate your new debit card and send money to Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic the new, easy way—with the Pangea Money Transfer app!

Here’s some advice on how to get started, with help from the experts at NerdWallet and WalletHub.


Before You Apply


First things first: before you apply for a checking account, you should identify your personal needs and money habits. Richie Bernardo at WalletHub lists a few helpful questions you should ask yourself, including:


• How do you primarily want to use your checking account? To deposit checks? Pay bills online? Write checks? Make a money transfer online?

• Do you need a physical branch near home, work, or school — or will you do most of your banking online?

• How much money will you keep in your account? 

Once you’ve thought about those answers, you can begin to consider your options, from credit unions to online banks. NerdWallet has a comprehensive list of banks and credit unions so you can find the perfect checking account to suit your personal needs—check it out!


What You’ll Need


“Most banks and credit unions give you a choice between setting up an account online or visiting a nearby branch to open your account the old-fashioned way,” says Richie. Either way, to complete an application, you’ll typically need the following:

1. Identification. Most places ask for two forms of identification, like a state ID, Social Security card, or driver’s license. Note: You may be able to use an ID issued from your home country if you are not a US citizen!

2. Proof of Address. A utility bill will do the trick!

3. Money for your opening deposit. This typically costs anywhere from $25 to $100, but depends on the type of checking account. Spencer at NerdWallet suggests “either cash, a check, a money order or digitally accessible funds” for an easy transfer.


Completing Your Application


It’s easy! You can do this online or at a branch location. Then, the bank will go through the process of approving your account, and “if approved, you should receive documents that bear your new account number and routing number as well as other important account information,” says Richie.


Final Steps


After your application is finalized and account set up, you’ll soon get a debit card (or an ATM card), plus personalized checks and deposit slips. From there, you can set up direct deposit, activate your debit card, and start enjoying the benefits of online banking!

It’s also the perfect time to create your free account with Pangea. Once you have a debit card, there’s no reason to keep rushing to the store and sending cash to Latin America the old-fashioned way. Now, you can start sending money—no matter where you are!—for a flat fee of $4.95, every time.

Any questions? Call us at +1 866-858-9928. We can answer questions about using your debit card to make an online transfer to Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador, or Dominican Republic. ¡Hablamos español!


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