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How to open a bank account online in 3 steps

Learn the requirements and how-tos when opening a new bank account online.

There are over 80 banks that report offering online bank account applications with no need to visit a branch, according to the American Bankers Association. And that’s just banks — many credit unions and fintechs with banking services also offer online applications.

Whether you’re looking to open your first account or upgrade to one with better perks, opening a new bank account online is pretty straightforward with most online applications taking five to 10 minutes to complete.

3 steps to open a bank account online

How soon you’re approved or denied for the new account can depend on the bank, whether you’re a new or existing customer and if you have all your documentation in a row.

Step 1: Choose your account

Before comparing banks and their unique offerings, identify the type of account that suits your needs.

The four most common types of bank accounts are checking, savings, money market and certificates of deposit (CDs) — each with their own uses and place.

Compare account types

If you have a spouse, life partner or family member that you’re adding to your account, make sure the account accepts joint account holders. Parents looking to open an account for their child can open one as a joint or custodial account.

A photo of Alexa Serrano Cruz, CAMS

Choosing more than one account can be beneficial.

Once you have about two months' worth of expenses in your checking account, it's recommended to open a savings account to keep your extra money and watch it grow. Unlike credit cards, keeping multiple savings accounts or checking accounts at different banks won't affect your credit score. Instead, it helps keep your money safe from potential bank failures, as long as you don't keep more than $250,000 in a bank.

— Alexa Serrano Cruz, CAMS, Senior Editor, Personal Finance.

Step 2: Gather your docs and apply

Visit the bank’s website or app to apply. During the online application process, you’ll be asked for electronic copies or photos of required documents, like your driver’s license.

Most banks have these eligibility requirements:

  • US resident with a US residential address
  • At least 18 years old, or aged 13 to 17 with an accompanied adult
  • Government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license or passport
  • Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification number (ITIN)

Step 3: Fund the account and start using it

Prioritize funding your account, especially if there’s an opening deposit requirement or a balance requirement to waive the monthly maintenance fee.

After you’ve funded the account, you can set up your online banking, including:

  • Activate your card — usually delivered within one to two weeks
  • Set up automatic bill pay or automatic transfers
  • Switch your direct deposits to your new account
  • Claim a signup bonus, which is often awarded for setting up direct deposit or other actions

How much money do you need to open a bank account?

It depends on the bank and type of account you’re opening. Most online banks don’t require an initial deposit to open a checking or savings account, while others may ask for amounts ranging from $10 to $100. For CDs, you’ll usually need between $250 and $2,500 to open the account.

Keep in mind that if your interest-bearing account doesn’t have an opening deposit requirement, you still need to have some money in the account to start earning interest.

What if I’m denied a bank account?

There may be a number of reasons you were denied a bank account, and the lending institution is required to tell you why. If you have a poor banking history — such as multiple overdraft incidents or past forced account closures — then your ChexSystems report is likely the culprit.

ChexSystems is a credit reporting agency under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. It gathers your banking history and generates a report of your banking history for the last five years. If your ChexSystems report isn’t ideal, a bank may deny your application.

If you can’t wait for your ChexSystems report to clear up and need an account now, look at second-chance bank accounts. Many of these accounts won’t review your ChexSystems report, but they often come with more fees than traditional accounts.

If you’re curious, you can request one copy of your ChexSystems report for free every 12 months.

Potential issues when applying online

You may have to visit a local branch to open a bank account if you run into any of these challenges.

  • Not ideal for limited tech. If you can’t send photos of your application documents electronically, you may need to visit a physical branch or provide a certified copy of your documents by mail.
  • Minors may need to visit a branch. Anyone under age 18 can’t open a bank account without a parent or legal guardian co-signing on the account. Many large banks require an in-person application and don’t offer online applications for custodial accounts.
  • Non-US citizens have extra hoops. Nonresidents can open accounts at some banks in the US but may be required to provide additional documentation, such as a passport, green card, work visa or student ID, to a local branch to verify identity and complete the application process.

Over a third use an online bank

Well over a combined third (37%) say that they either bank exclusively bank online (19%) or have both a traditional bank account and an online one (18%)

Bottom line

The days of spending an hour at the bank to open an account are gone now that most banks let you open a new checking or savings account online in minutes. But don’t let the speed and convenience rush you into a decision. Before getting started, compare savings accounts or checking accounts to find the one that’s right for you.

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