How Do You Open a Bank Account Without an ID?

By Sheryl Nance-Nash · May 20, 2024 · 7 minute read

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How Do You Open a Bank Account Without an ID?

If you’re wondering, “Can you open a bank account without an ID?” here’s the short answer: No. You must have identification. Not only is this the law, but it would also be negligent if it weren’t a requirement because money is at stake. If accounts are opened without an ID, there’s all kinds of potential for funds to go to or from the wrong individual. That could create a very bad financial situation, as you might guess.

So read on to learn about opening a bank account without ID and your options when you are in this situation.

Key Points

•   Opening a bank account in the U.S. requires identification as mandated by federal regulations and the US Patriot Act.

•   Acceptable forms of ID include a Social Security number, passport, or alien identification card.

•   Banks verify identity through documents to prevent fraud and comply with anti-money laundering laws.

•   Secondary forms of ID might be accepted at some banks if primary ID is not available.

•   Non-citizens can use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to open an account if they don’t have a Social Security number.

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 an 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. Or maybe you are new to the US and don’t have the required ID papers. But if you lack identification and you need to get a new bank account going, sorry: It’s not happening.

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ID Rules for Opening a Bank Account

In the United States, identification is required to open a checking or savings account. Banks must abide by federal regulations that establish guidelines for opening new accounts. (While you cannot open a bank account without ID, you’ll learn more about what qualifies as identification in a moment.)

The US Patriot Act makes a customer identity program, or CIP (also called Know Your Customer), mandatory for all US 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

•   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 either of these two options:

•   A Social Security number

•   A taxpayer identification number.

Otherwise, the kind of identification needed is:

•   A passport number and country of issuance

•   An alien identification card number

•   A number and country of issuance of any government-issued document that shows nationality or residence and has a photo.

Recommended: Guide to Safety Deposit Boxes

Opening a Bank Account Without an ID

Now, here are the steps you’ll follow to open one or multiple bank accounts, depending on the form of ID you possess.

Understand the Verification Process

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.

Why are these documents so vital? Rules to prevent bank fraud and money laundering 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.

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.”

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 needed to open 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

•   A credit card statement

•   A lease agreement.

If you don’t get your bills mailed to you, you can always print out a statement from your online account.

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Do Any Types of Bank Accounts Not Require an ID?

The bottom line is that you will need some form of identification to open a bank account. 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:

•   A birth certificate

•   A school or college ID card

•   A voter registration card

•   A Medicare card

•   An employment badge with your photo and signature

•   A major credit card

•   A social services (Welfare, etc.) photo card.

In addition, search for options based on your particular circumstances. For instance, if you are an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, you may find that some Hispanic-American-owned credit unions have programs specially designed to help you get a bank account.

Recommended: Guide to Opening a Bank Account as a Non-US Citizen

The Takeaway

Now that you’ve read this, the message has probably gotten through loud and clear: You likely cannot open a bank account without ID.

That said, 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.

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FAQ

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 common 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 or college ID, voter registration card, Medicare card, a major credit card, or a social services card (like Welfare) photo ID.


Photo credit: iStock/akinbostanci

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