It really depends on the bank, yeah, that doesn't help, does it? Alright, let's give you a general idea of things...
In the US you have credit unions or banks, credit unions are not-for profit, whereas a bank is totally the opposite. The main difference is that once you open an account at a credit union, you become a member, and they are there to serve you, once again, banks are the opposite, they are there (
to take advantage) as a business, and like every business they need to maximize profit.
Usually a credit union is a cooperative that belongs to a company or an organization, such as the Realtors federal credit union only accepts realtors as members, or belongs to a community, for example, the 1st Advantage credit union - if you live in the Virginia Peninsula, you can join as a member. If you walk in to any bank and has the right documents, you can open an account.
Either way, you will open a checking account, which is the current account, where you will deposit your money and get a debt card to use in stores and ATM machines, so you can withdraw cash. Checks (cheques) are still widely used in the US. Usually you get some starter checks when you open the accounts, and then you can order some more once they've run out.
Documents you might need:
- social security card
- proof of residence
- driver's license/passport
One thing to look out for, is fees. When deciding which bank to use, make sure you understand what fees you are paying. A lot of times banks and credit unions offer free accounts if you keep a certain balance or have direct deposit from your salary.
All in all, it's a painless process, pretty straight forward, as long as you have all your documents in hand.