How To Open A New Bank Account

I recently went through the process of obtaining a new bank account. It was a fascinating process, and one that will no doubt be useful to everyone. Because so much has changed.

I remember opening my first bank account.

My mother to the Lincoln National Bank in Fort Wayne when I was perhaps six years old. I walked out with my very own bank account. I could prove I owned it because of the luxurious little “passbook” I was provided – a deep blue cover with the image of Fort Wayne’s then-tallest building, the Lincoln Tower, inscribed in the cover in gold leaf. Yes, this was what banking was all about.

Over the years I watched the balance grow after deposits from the birthday and Christmas checks from relatives, and later from the earnings from my part-time jobs. I watched interest start to add up – an experience that has gone obsolete, until recently, at least.

I have opened a few accounts since then. OK, between business and getting married and raising kids, more than a few. But this newest one was the easiest of all, because I had to do exactly – – – nothing!

In fact, the task was so effortless that I had not even realized that I had opened the account until I opened my mail one day recently. I was greeted with three separate mailings from the credit union in Massachusetts with my account number, a small welcome packet, and even a debit cars I was invited to activate.

I wondered if my memory was starting to fail me. Marianne has been known to ask “Do I have to worry about you?” when I have a little lapse of woolgathering. Could it have been a part of some other transaction we had entered recently? I know about getting a toaster or a prepaid gift card when you open some kind of credit account, but getting a free credit union account was a new one on me.

If opening it was the easy part, then closing it was significantly more difficult. There was no menu item on the touchtone phone menu for “Hey, what’s this all about?” So a short 45 minute wait ensued. Fortunately, I had plenty of other things to do while I listened to the pleasant music.

I finally reached a representative and made my inquiry: “Ummm – I don’t remember opening this account, could you give me more information?” After a few more minutes on hold I determined that their crack Fraud Department was already on the job and had flagged my new account as suspicious. It turns out that Marianne does not have to worry about me (not yet, at least) because it turns out that I was not the one who had opened the account.

I wondered how a fraudster somewhere could profit from opening a new account in my name when everything was sent to my address. Were they expecting me start making deposits into it on the chance that I would not look the gift horse in the mouth? Or that I might activate the debit card? It was suggested to me by the credit union rep that the game was probably to give it a little time, then submit an address change and request a duplicate card.

So, while the opening process was as easy as pie, the closing process turned out to be far more onerous, and involved freezing my credit bureau accounts and providing more information to the nice people at my soon-to-be ex-credit union. So, it turns out that I really have no idea how to open an account when I didn’t do it in the first place, but I at least know how to close one. The silver lining is that if I ever move to Massachusetts, I know a credit union I can join.

25 thoughts on “How To Open A New Bank Account

  1. Kind of a horror story! Seems like this stuff is happening more and more lately. After having two credit cards hacked within two weeks of each other, both used at the same on-line retailer (which they refused to admit a problem with, and who I do not order from since), I went into my bank to find out how I could safe guard my accounts with them even more. I’ve never linked all my accounts to an ATM card, and my savings theoretically cannot be accessed unless you go into a branch and actually show your face and sign a chit. I did learn that my debit card could be used to clean out my checking account at will, so I put daily limits on what could actually be removed. The days of my needing over 50 bucks a day is long gone. The only way to get more is to actually write a check.

    You’ve hit on one thing, tho; where is my 5.25% interest that my teen passbook saving had? As a 90+ year old buddy of mine said before he passed away: “The elimination of the 5.25% pass book savings is the worst thing that even happened to retirees.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember the rosy stories about how much electronic access to our financial accounts was going to make our lives better. So, other than the rampant fraud, it’s a great success.

      And don’t get me started on the modern financial system and how we have been nudged into a lifestyle of all spending and no saving (unless it goes through the hands of the brokerage industry).

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      • Ditto about the brokerage industry…your bank will hold your money with virtually zero interest, but they will happily talk you into an uninsured account, run by a mutual fund company, without telling you how much cheaper it would be, expense wise, to just go directly through the company and not the bank. They won’t tell you that they are working as a sales agent for the fund. And lets not even talk about how the republican party has been trying to drive the social security system into the stock and bond market! A disaster! When a few minor changes would make it solvent in perpetuity. Meanwhile, my IRA has been managed by top-notch companies for the last 30 years, and it’s lost half it’s value 3 times over that period, and struggled back. Social Security in that? I don’t think so…

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  2. That’s an unpleasant situation. It’s also scary how some nefarious individuals are able to so easily find our information.

    We’ve had to change out our credit card a few times in the last five or so years. The most recent was due to somebody having purchased a prosthetic leg using our account number. The credit card company caught it, but we at least now know the guilty party is missing a leg or has a loved one who is. Not that such really helps…

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    • So you got a leg-up on them? Sorry.

      Yeah, I had been feeling pretty smug about never being a victim of some kind of financial fraud. I’m over that.

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    • I guess this is also a cautionary tale about how we should open what looks like junk mail. It only now occurs to me that maybe that was their game – hope that I would toss the envelopes in the belief that they were just one more mass-mail come-on. The only thing that saved me this time was that I was expecting information on an account change-over from a benefit at my office and thought this might be it.

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  3. I used to “rob banks” by opening new accounts. They would offer you like $400 to open a new account, and maybe $200 to get their credit card. I’ve made almost $2000 by doing this. You have to have a certain number of qualifying ACH deposits, and keep the account open for 90 days. So I would do that and then move on to the next one. Wells Fargo is currently offering $400. ($25 min. deposit, 3 ACH payments totaling $1000, 90 days).

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  4. Wow, that’s really nervy. I sometimes wonder about how these scammers think up all these things as there are always so many new ones. Think about how productive they could be if they actually went out and got a real job.

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  5. What a story. I thought you were going to find out none of the paperwork was “active” and the bank was hoping you’d pull the trigger so they’d gain your business. The “rest of the story” is much more disturbing, but like you I would’ve pursued answers in a hurry. “Passbook” – oh my; haven’t heard that word in ages. My memory of my childhood bank was the intimidating lobby – formal with nothing but cold, hard surfaces, and tellers behind bars. It was scary just making a deposit!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The bank lobby – there is another thing that is rapidly going away. In my first part of real-adult life, my local branch was a really cool building from the height of the art deco age. My current branch – well no, that one just closed. But before it did, it looked like a modern chain hotel front desk.

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  6. This happened to my wife during COVID. She received a debit card with a letter saying she was to use the card when her first unemployment payment was deposited.
    We found out that this is pretty common and the state has an automated system on their website to report it to the authorities.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sorry you were a victim of identity theft; in my experience, no issue that involves the phrase “credit union” can be dealt with in a streamlined way (I have never once spoken to someone on the phone whose first language was English), but it sounds like you were able to get it dealt with relatively quickly.

    With regards to closing accounts at banks, I’ve only ever done that once and just had to keep saying “No, I’m not interested” to every counter offer they gave me about why I needed to keep it. It was an interesting psychological exercise to actively work against my people-pleaser sensibilities.

    I once had a banker open a new account for me without really getting my input on it. I forget what I was in there to do, but she looked at my accounts and basically said “Your money is going to be better off if we open this new kind of account for you so I’m going to do that right now and transfer your money there.” She didn’t ask for my permission or how I felt about it, she just told me what she was doing as she did it. Granted, she was right about it being a better financial situation, but I felt that I was left squarely outside of that decision.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I understand a bank employee telling you how it’s going to be. My office once had a client whose very elderly mother died and left her a tidy sum. The banker told our client that he would put her on a regular allowance. The bank lost a customer right there when she said “Nobody gets to put me on an allowance with my own money!”

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  8. I keep hearing an ad on the radio for a business which keeps people from targeting the title of your home and misappropriating your home’s title for themselves – is this is a new “thing” for scammers? Very scary to hear and it is pricey to use their service.

    Many years ago, when I first got my Visa card, long before online shopping was popular, I had a large charge on my Visa bill for the Home Shopping Network. I never watched HSN but it was on TV and you ordered from the toll-free number. I contacted the bank and said I never ordered from them and they were nice and took the charge off since I never carried a balance on the card and they could see I never charged by mail or telephone on my card. I asked where they got my credit card info because I was careful to always ask for the yellow carbon copy receipt, in addition to the original receipt, in all stores where I used my Visa card and I had never done any mail order/telephone charges. The customer service rep said likely a rogue sales clerk somewhere along the line. She said the person who scammed my credit card lived in Santa Monica and she could not tell me any more as that was privileged information. My credit card, but it was privileged. Go figure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The unguided human mind has an amazing capacity for coming up with new scams. And yes, “privileged information” when your card was the one used. CYA is another time-honored human tradition.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Linda, I think I’ve been reading about the home title scams for about 15 or more years now! Truly scary that so much can happen so quickly that even owning a home and having the title and it seems like no one does due diligence to double check the information. I do a lot of physical banking at my bank, and I’m sort of a “big” character, and most of the first tier management know my feelings about money and doing as little on line as possible, so they would smell a rat if something “untoward” would try to be done with my accounts. But, that doesn’t stop someone from going into a different branch where I’m not known, or something happening on-line from a different source, altho all that would hopefully set off red flags. Most of my accounts cannot be accessed on-line to begin with. The millennials I know are not known or seen at their banks, and in fact, many in my building get warnings on their mailboxes that mail delivery will stop because they don’t even check their mail and the boxes are jammed. These are the people that will take weeks to figure out they’re scammed.

      My associates that know of such things will tell you that a personal contact will far more likely result in a stolen card number than a non-personal transaction. I stopped calling in orders to vendors I use years ago, and quit reading them my credit card number. I do everything over a secure website, direct to the company. Altho my credit cards were both hacked in this method, my pals will say that it’d be most likely to use your credit card at a restaurant and have the server disappear with it to the back room, that you’d get your number stolen. I shy away from those places now. Even when I lived in DC years ago, the high-end restaurants came to your table with a hand held scanner. Where I live now, they still disappear with your card.

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      • That’s amazing Andy – I was duped by that ad and convinced myself it was still another NEW scam. For goodness sake that is something else to worry about in this scammy and spammy world we live in today.

        I spent a half-hour on the phone with my car/home insurance agent this week asking to be put on the traditional and albeit old-fashioned way of receiving my premium notices. They put me on a 3% savings if I chose to get no paperwork and have the twice-yearly car insurance and yearly home insurance amounts taken from my checking account. They never took the amount until a day or two after the premium date. Further, I don’t have a smartphone, just a flip phone, so I cannot carry around my proof of insurance card on my phone to present if needed (hopefully not needed). I no longer got the declaration pages. I work from home, but do not use a printer and getting them to print the proof of insurance card was like pulling teeth. The fact that the house insurance has been with the same company since 1966, my own car insurance since 1973 and I have motor club, all with Allstate caused me to lose my cool and say I wanted to return to how it was – I’m sure they think I’m a dinosaur.

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