Can You Open a Bank Account With Just a Passport?

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When you open a bank account, the bank needs you to prove that you are who you say you are. That normally involves providing a few pieces of documentation, including a government-issued photo ID. For most people, a driver’s license is the most obvious choice. However, if you don’t have a driver’s license, a passport – whether issued by the U.S. or another country – could serve the same purpose.

That’s because a passport is an official government document that requires a thorough vetting process.

But is your passport by itself enough to open a bank account? Not quite. While it does allow you to meet the photo ID requirement, there are typically other things you’ll need to show the bank to prove your current address and tax status. Learn more about the requirements for opening a bank account.

What Do You Need to Open a Bank Account? 

“The documentation needed to open an account or sign up for membership at a bank or credit union may vary,” says Jaspreet Chawla, senior vice president of savings products at Navy Federal Credit Union. Your best bet is to call the financial institution that you’re interested in joining to double check, or go online and see if there is a list of requirements.

In general, however, most financial institutions have similar requirements. For instance, you will always need a government-issued photo ID to prove your identity. Some banks even require two photo IDs. In addition, you may have to meet other requirements like:

  • Proof of address. Showing a utility bill or some type of mail with your name and current physical address on it is usually another key requirement. Note that banks will most likely not accept documentation that uses a P.O. box address.
  • Social Security number. You may have to show a Social Security card, or you might just have to provide the number. Some banks or credit unions allow noncitizens to open an account using an individual taxpayer identification number. Banks can use either of these numbers to report any interest earned in accounts to the IRS.
  • Contact information. Banks will want to have your phone and email address on file to contact you. They may or may not require proof or some sort of authentication process to confirm.

Is the Documentation Different for Online-Only Banks? 

If you’re looking to open an account with a digital-only bank, it’s essentially the same process. “When opening an OceanFirst account online, the ID required is the same as what is needed for opening the account in person,” says Christopher Maher, chairman and CEO of OceanFirst Bank in New Jersey.

The main difference is that you’re filling in electronic forms and uploading documents and photos to the bank. You might then be asked to print, sign and mail in a form with your signature, though some banks allow you to sign digitally.

What Other Kinds of ID Could You Provide to the Bank? 

If you don’t have a passport or a driver’s license, there still are some other acceptable forms of ID. For example, even if you’re not a driver, your state department of motor vehicles can issue you a photo ID. Just keep in mind that the process involves bringing a birth certificate and/or other documents to the DMV.

Other kinds of acceptable photo ID might include a military-issued card or a state government ID. “If you don’t have a driver’s license or passport, I’d recommend reaching out to the financial institution to see what other options for photo ID meet their identification requirements,” says Chawla. “They’ll be best equipped to guide you in the right direction.”

Do You Really Need a Bank Account? 

“Having a bank account with a government-insured and -regulated financial organization is part of a sound financial plan to protect and monitor funds,” says Maher.

What’s more, it gives you a place to receive direct deposit paychecks or government payments, provides a debit card for use at ATMs and for purchases, and facilitates paying bills.

“Another great benefit of having a bank account is you can track your spending and manage your money from anywhere,” says Chawla. “Many banks or credit unions offer a suite of tools through online and mobile banking. This may include mobile check deposits, alerts and notifications, paperless statements, bill pay, and more.”

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