How to Get a Bank Account When Homeless

How to Get a Bank Account When Homeless

So you’re currently homeless and you need a bank account. But how do you get one when you don’t have a permanent address? Don’t worry, it’s possible. Having a bank account can help you save money and build credit to get back on your feet.

In this blog post, we’re exploring the steps to open an account, what ID and documents you’re going to need, types of bank accounts to consider, and tips to manage your account while having an unstable living situation. With some persistence and planning, you can get the financial tools you need despite not having a home.

Why You Need a Bank Account When Homeless

If you’ve lost your home, a bank account should be high on your priorities. Even though money could be dwindling, an account gives you security and stability.

Safekeeping

Without a fixed address, cash could easily be lost or stolen. A bank account protects your money and any income you receive. Direct deposit from your work or government benefits could be deposited straight into your account.

Bill payment

It’s nearly impossible to pay bills without a bank account these days. Whether it’s a phone, medical expenses or other needs, companies prefer electronic payments. An account lets you pay by check, online, or with a debit card. Most banks even offer free or low-cost check cashing or money orders for account holders.

Build credit

A bank account is often the first step to building credit. While a debit card won’t build your score, opening an account and using it responsibly shows you can manage finances. Ask your bank about secured credit cards or other credit-building products once you’ve had an account for a few months. Establishing credit is key to qualifying for an apartment, vehicle or other essentials.

Access to additional services

Most basic bank accounts provide more than just a place to deposit your money. You can apply for loans, pay for overdraft protection, use ATMs for cash and sometimes get financial counseling. Some banks offer more perks like discount programs, travel insurance or credit monitoring. Stability and additional benefits of a bank account are worth the effort, even for those with limited means.

Requirements to Open a Bank Account When Homeless

Opening a bank account when you’re homeless could be challenging, but it’s not impossible. First, you’re going to need proper identification. This typically means a government-issued photo ID, like a driver’s license or state ID card. If you don’t have either of these, you may be able to use documents like a birth certificate, Social Security, or passport. Some banks accept alternative forms of ID, so check with institutions in your area.

  • You’re also going to need a mailing address. While you can technically list a local homeless charity or shelter as your address, some banks could require a residential address. If that’s the case, you have a few options. You can use the address of a trusted friend or family member with their permission. Some shelters also offer mail services or post office boxes you can use for banking correspondence. As a last resort, you may need to rent a cheap PO box or mailbox to establish an address.

  • Opening a bank account typically requires a small deposit, between $15 to $100. If you currently have limited funds, look for banks that offer accounts with no or low minimum balance requirements. Some waive fees for people in certain circumstances. It may take some searching, but free or affordable banking options are out there.

Don’t stress. While the requirements may present obstacles, a bank account provides security and stability. It gives you a safe place to keep your money, pay bills, and cash checks. It’s a step towards rebuilding your financial life and independence. With determination, you can find a bank willing to give you a chance. So don’t give up – keep trying and that account can be yours.

Choosing a Good Bank as a Homeless Person​

Choosing a Good Bank as a Homeless Person

When you’re homeless, having a safe place to keep any money you earn or receive in benefits can be challenging. Choosing a bank that meets your unique needs is key. Look for those that offer fee waivers for low-income customers and allow you to open an account with little or no initial deposit.

Look for Banks That Waive Fees

Some major banks like Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America offer special accounts with no monthly fees, overdraft charges, or minimum balance requirements for low-income customers. Ask about their fee waiver programs for homeless individuals or those on government assistance. They will likely require proof of your situation, so be prepared to provide documentation about your homelessness or benefits eligibility.

Online Banks

Online banks like Ally Bank and Axos Bank allow you to open accounts remotely via their website or mobile app. They often have lower fees overall compared to traditional brick-and-mortar banks. While they may still require a small deposit to open an account, some like Chime and Varo Money charge no monthly fees and provide early access to your direct deposit funds. The downside is you lose the in-person branch access, but for basic banking needs, having an account online could work great.

Look Into Prepaid Cards

If opening a basic bank account isn’t possible, prepaid cards offer a secure alternative for managing your money. Companies like American Express, Green Dot, and NetSpend offer re-loable prepaid cards with FDIC insurance and mobile check deposits. While they typically charge small monthly and per-transaction fees, some like the Amex Serve Cash Back card offer ways to waive fees and earn cash back on purchases.

The most important thing is finding an option that keeps your money safe, accessible, and affordable. Don’t hesitate to ask banks and prepaid card companies about ways they can waive or lower fees for someone in your situation. With the right account, you can gain stability and work toward improving your financial situation.

Tips for Managing Your Account and Money

Once your bank account is active, it’s important to start managing your money well.

Start Budgeting

As someone experiencing homelessness, creating a budget is key to financially stability. Track your income sources, like a part-time job or government benefits. Then list your necessary expenses like food, transportation and medical costs. See what’s left over and allocate it to savings. A budget helps ensure you’re not overspending each month.

Monitor your statements regularly

Be sure to check your bank statements, whether online or paper, at least once a month. Look for any unauthorized charges or withdrawals and report them to your bank immediately. Monitoring your statements also helps you ensure there are no errors in charges or that you’re not overdrawing your account with purchases or ATM withdrawals. Staying on top of your statements is one of the best ways to avoid fees and fraud.

Consider a secured card to build credit

If you need to establish or rebuild your credit, a secured credit card may be a good option. With a secured card, you deposit cash collateral with the issuer, and they extend you a line of credit equal to your deposit. The deposit reduces the risk for the issuer, so it’s easier to get approved. Use the card for small purchases and pay on time each month to build your credit over time. Once you establish a good payment record, you may qualify for an unsecured card and get your deposit back.

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