Learn about banking, navigating barriers, and explore alternatives to standard banking.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Know your options! 

The basics of bank accounts and services



Steps to Open Your New Account

1. Consider meeting with a financial counselor.  If you have been denied an account from a bank or credit union, and ChexSystems was used in the decision process, a financial counselor can help you review your ChexSystems report and assist you in finding bank products that would best fit your needs.

2. Shop around! Each financial institution offers different options and benefits, so you can find one that is the right fit for you. There are handy tools to help you think through the questions to think about when selecting a financial institution. Finding financial products and services will help you think through how you want to use your account to manage your money, and what account features are most important to you. Comparing financial service providers will help you think about services offered and the fees at different banks and credit unions.

3. Find a participating bank or credit union in your neighborhood. If you are looking for a Bank On account that offers low-cost and low-barrier banking services, there are many Bank On certified accounts available in Washington State. Find a participating bank or credit union in your area.

4. Ask them about opening a Bank On account. Many banks and credit unions have special checking and savings programs designed just for you. Make sure to ask all your questions before you commit! You should feel comfortable with the staff and the financial institution. They should answer your questions and help you open an account that’s best for your needs.

5. Remember to bring some identification. You will need a passport, Washington state ID, or Mexican Matricula card. Some banks and credit unions accept other IDs as well. Most banks and credit unions will request a second form of ID, not including cell phone bills. If you don’t have a Social Security number, at some financial institutions you can use your ITIN (Individual Tax-Payer Identification Number).

6. Have a physical address ready to use. It is a requirement that you provide the financial institution with a physical address. This can be your residence, but it can also be a trusted friend or family member’s address. You don’t have to receive mail there; you can request online statements and email communications so the financial institution will not mail things to that address. 

7. Open your new checking and savings account.  The person at the bank or credit union will walk you through the entire process. Make sure you understand the terms of your account; if it doesn't make sense, keep asking questions! You will need to make an opening deposit and sign some documents, then your account will be ready to use! 

8. Manage your checking account. Opening your account is just the beginning - its important that you pay attention to how you are using it in order to avoid unnecessary fees. This checklist will help you understand strategies for avoiding fees and other issues with your account.


Online Banking

You can open your own affordable, safe, and certified bank or credit union account online now. Nationally certified Bank On accounts have no overdraft fees, most cost $5 or less a month, and you can use them to manage your money and pay bills at no cost. Learn more about online Bank On accounts here!

ChexSystems Reports

If you have been denied an account from a bank or credit union, and ChexSystems was part of the decision process, this information will help you understand what may have contributed to that decision

Chex Systems, Inc. provides account verification services to its financial institution members to aid them in identifying account applicants who may have a history of account mishandling (for example, people whose accounts were overdrawn and then closed by them or their bank). Each report submitted to ChexSystems remains on file for five years. You can order a report to learn what information is in your consumer file at ChexSystems. 

You have the right to request a copy of your ChexSystems report! Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you are entitled to a free copy of your consumer disclosure report, upon your request, at a minimum once every 12 months and more frequently under certain conditions. Learn more and request your report here!

Consider contacting a financial counselor to review your ChexSystems Report with you. Financial Education Providers offer one-on-one financial education, free classes, and workshops to help you learn about managing your finances.  You can find a schedule of upcoming classes and workshops offered on the Financial Education Calendar.

Issues with Identification

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency provides answers and solutions for questions about identification methods used by banks, use of social security numbers, and fingerprints.

The FDIC’s Economic Impact Payments page now directs consumers to Bank On for new account opening. Individuals can open an account online and input their account information directly into the IRS portal.

When choosing and using your bank or credit union account, it’s important to know your options.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s account guides have the information you need to shop for and manage a checking account to keep your money safe.

Compare financial services, costs, and identification requirements to find what best suits your needs!

We want you to have all the tools you need to open your new account and start saving for the future.

Lending Circles

What is a lending circle? A lending circle is a zero-interest and zero-fee social loan that helps to establish or improve credit history and score. It can also serve as a savings vehicle for those who are motivated by deadlines or by working with their peers.

How does a lending circle work? A group of people meet and agree to contribute to a fund monthly. Each month a different member receives the money in the fund for his or her use. The lending circle is complete when each participant has accessed the monthly fund. In this way, every member of a lending circle is both a borrower and a lender.

El Centro de la Raza’s Lending Circles are open to anyone 18 years and older. Those interested in participating should:

  • Attend one of the regularly scheduled informational meetings where they can ask questions and learn more about the program.
  • Schedule a one-on-one intake appointment in which they will work with a counselor to decide if lending circles are a good fit for them and to which they will be asked to bring:
    • A government-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license, passport, or consular ID
    • Recent proof of income for one month (e.g., pay stubs, profit, and loss statement)
    • Recent monthly bank statements for all accounts
    • A voided check
    • A social security number or ITIN
  • Attend a formation meeting to create a lending circle and determine the monthly contribution amount and the monthly disbursal by group consensus.
  • All participants are strongly encouraged to attend a Bank On-certified eight-hour financial education series.

Lending circles are available in English and Spanish.

For more information, send an email directly to El Centro de la Raza.

Interested in creating a lending circle program within your own organization? Learn more about the Mission Asset Fund and how you can partner in their work!

Save to Win

With Save to Win, every $25 you put into a share certificate at a participating credit union is another chance to win and save. In the end, you’ll at the very least walk away with your savings, plus interest. You could even end up winning $5,000. That’s what Save to Win is all about!

Small Dollar Loans:  An Affordable Pay-Day Loan Alternative

BECU, Key Bank, Seattle Credit Union, First Federal Bank and Express Credit Union offer small-dollar loans that will work with you to break the payday lending cycle. Amounts of the loan and conditions vary, so check out the features of each by reviewing the bank or credit union website before deciding which one works for you!

Fintech Solutions

Consumers are increasingly turning to financial technology products and services to meet their financial needs. Simply put, fintech, a combination of the words “finance” and “technology” can include everything from mobile payment apps to complex blockchain networks. Examples you may be familiar with are Venmo, PayPal or Square. But what is fintech and how do you select the right fintech product?

Examples of key questions to ask include:

  • How does the company make money?
  • How is the company protecting my personal information?
  • Is the product regulated in any way? 
  • Do you have access to customer support?
  • What protections are in place if something happens to your funds?

Explore more fintech tips and resources:

Prepaid Debit Cards

Some consumers find a prepaid debit card helps them manage their funds without needing to carry cash. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has information to help you choose the right one and to better understand your rights.

 Learn more about what to look for when choosing a prepaid card.