To answer that burning question, “Can you open a bank account without an ID?” let’s cut to the chase: No. Sometimes with the tough stuff in life, there’s no workaround. You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it; you have to go through it.
And so it goes with opening a bank account. You must have identification. You don’t have to scratch your head and wonder why. Not only because it’s the law, but it would also be insane if it weren’t a requirement because money is at stake. If you want to see a situation escalate quickly, tell someone you gave their money to the wrong person. That’s what could happen when accounts are opened without an ID.
Can I Open a Bank Account Without an ID?
Some people may wonder why anyone other than a scammer would wonder how to open a bank account without ID. But unfortunately this kind of situation can happen. Think of the possibilities: You’ve moved, you’ve lost a vital folder of credentials, or you were robbed — life can throw you all kinds of curveballs. But if your identification has vanished and you need to get a new bank account going, get ready for disappointment. It’s not happening. Or, as the folks in Brooklyn say, fuhgeddaboudit.
Here, we’ll explain why banks need ID to open an account and take a good look at what you can do if you want to start a new account but just don’t have the right proof in your pocket.
Opening a Bank Account Without an ID
In the United States, identification is required to open a bank account. Banks must abide by federal regulations that establish guidelines for opening new accounts. The U.S. Patriot Act makes a customer identity program, or CIP, (also called Know Your Customer) mandatory for all U.S. financial institutions as a terrorism deterrent. Section 326 of this law allows banks to set their own criteria for verifying a new account holder’s identity, but must include at least name, address, date of birth and taxpayer identification number. Not only must banks get the information, they must also verify it.
In terms of what kind of number is needed, a U.S. citizen needs a Social Security number or a taxpayer identification number. Otherwise, the kind of identification needed is passport number and country of issuance, alien identification card number, or a number and country of issuance of any government-issued document that shows nationality or residence and has a photo. Because documents can be fake, the bank must take steps to be sure they are accurate. They can do this by going to sources like the credit reporting agencies or checking the applicant’s references with other financial institutions. In the end, the bank must be confident that you are who you say you are before they will open an account.
Recommended: Can I Open Multiple Bank Accounts?
Identify the Problem
Why are these documents so vital? Anti-fraud and anti-money laundering rules make it necessary for you to prove your identity when you apply for a bank account. Put yourself in the bank’s shoes for a minute. They have to adhere to the rules and regulations. There’s no wiggle room. Imagine the liability issues the bank would face if they failed to properly vet an applicant for a new account and that person commits fraud. So expect them to put you under the microscope. A bank account with no ID is just not going to happen.
Know the Requirements
Understanding what a bank needs is the first step; making sure you comply comes next. If you know the bank requires a name, address, and Social Security number, for example, be sure you can provide that information, and that the details are correct from any third-party from whom they seek verification. Be sure you review a copy of your credit report to see if there are errors. Also make sure your personal information is accurate with utility companies and any government agencies the bank might seek input from. You’ll then have all your ducks in a row for opening your account.
Have an Identification Number – ITIN, SSN
There are some numbers that you really need if you’re going to function in society, like an ITIN and SSN. An ITIN, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, is a tax processing number only available for certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents who cannot get a social security number (SSN). It is a 9-digit number, beginning with the number “9”, formatted like an SSN (NNN-NN-NNNN). To obtain an ITIN, you must complete IRS Form W-7, IRS Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number . The Form W-7 requires documentation substantiating foreign/alien status and true identity for each individual.
As for a Social Security number, you may well already have one. It’s how our government tracks earnings, and it’s used at many critical “adulting” moments, such as when you apply for a job or a federal loan. If you don’t have one, then you must complete Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card . You’ll also need to submit evidence of your identity, age, and U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status. It can be a wise move to get one ASAP; a Social Security number is how government agencies can identify individuals and businesses in their records to track their financial information.
Have a Proof of Address
This is another key piece of information you will need when opening a bank account. When it comes to providing evidence of where you live, you have some flexibility. Banks generally will accept things like a utility or cell phone bill, credit card statement, or lease agreement. If you don’t get your bills mailed to you, you can always print out a statement from your online account.
Do Any Types of Banks Not Require an ID to Create an Account?
The bottom line is that you will need some form of identification to create a bank account. There are some differences between online and traditional banks, but even online banks require identification. If you don’t have a driver’s license, passport, or a state-issued identification card (all of which are considered primary ID sources), you will have to work overtime to try to find a bank that has some flexibility in terms of what they will take as identification. Some institutions will consider you for an account if you have two secondary ID sources. What’s a secondary source, you ask? A bank might take two of the following: birth certificate, school ID card, voter registration card, Medicare card, an employment badge with your photo and signature, a college ID, a major credit card, or a social services (Welfare, etc.) photo card.
Do Cash Management Accounts Require an ID?
A cash management account is a Plan B instead of a traditional checking or savings account. They are typically offered by brokerage firms and robo-advisors. Each cash management account is different, but generally you can get your hands on your money easily via a debit card and/or checkbook. These accounts pay interest by dividing your deposit into multiple accounts at different banks. For example if you deposit $400,000 into a cash management account the brokerage might put $80,000 in five different banks where your money is eligible for Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Insurance.
Know however, that as with a traditional bank, you will have to produce identification. The anti-fraud and terrorism rules apply to all financial institutions.
Now that you’ve read this, the message has probably gotten through loud and clear: If you want to open a bank account, you will need identification. This can, in some circumstances, be a real obstacle. But know that if you don’t have identification like a driver’s license, passport, or a state government-issued card, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t open a bank account. Do your research to find out what institutions require for secondary identification. Two of those may get you in the door and on your way to getting your very own account.
Explore Checking and Savings With SoFi
Now that you understand why identification is so important when opening a bank account, may we suggest that when starting a new account, you head in our direction? Open an online bank account with SoFi and start banking better: We offer eligible members 1.25% APY, which happens to be 33x the average checking account rate. Plus, we’re firm believers in no monthly or minimum-balance fees!
Can I open a bank account without an ID?
You cannot open an account without some form of identification. Banks are required by law to get and verify that you are who you say you are. That said, if you don’t have the most commonly used and requested forms of ID, you may still be able to start an account with some smart substitutions.
How do I get an ITIN?
To obtain an ITIN, you must complete IRS Form W-7, IRS Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number . The Form W-7 requires documentation substantiating foreign/alien status and true identity for each individual.
How can I open a bank account without ID proof?
If you don’t have a primary form of ID, like a driver’s license, passport, or state-government issued id card, you will have to find an institution that will accept two secondary forms of identification.
What can I use instead of an ID to open a bank account?
A bank might take two of the following: birth certificate, school ID card, voter registration card, Medicare card, a college ID, a major credit card, or a social services card (like Welfare) photo ID.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 1.25% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Members
without direct deposit will earn 0.70% APY on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change
at any time. Rate of 1.25% APY is current as of 4/5/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Photo credit: iStock/akinbostanci