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How to open a bank account online
Skip waiting at the bank branch.
Opening a bank account online usually takes about 10 minutes — much faster than visiting your bank branch. In today’s fast-paced world, this type of convenience is priceless. Here’s a rundown of what to expect when you open a bank account online.
Steps to open a bank account online
Follow these steps to open a bank account online.
Step 1: Compare accounts to find the right one
Shop around to find the best bank account. Factor in the card type, minimum balance requirements for savings accounts, whether you can bank online or via an app, and any fees, including ATM withdrawal fees, monthly fees and whether the account waives fees if you make direct deposits.
Step 2: Decide if you want a single or joint bank account
If you open a single account, you’re the sole owner and no one else can access your money. But with a joint bank account, you share ownership with someone else, usually a family member, significant other or business partner. They have equal access to the account and can use the money however they wish.
Step 3: Apply for your account online
Click Go to site and a new window will open, sending you to the account provider’s website and a secure online application. You’ll need to provide basic information about yourself such as your name, date of birth, address and social security number. Make sure you have this information on hand before you start the application as the webpage can time out and close if you leave your computer unattended for too long.
After you complete an online application for a bank account, you’ll get an email from the account provider with information about what happens next. This email should come within a minute or two after you submit the application to the bank. It may come with instructions on verifying your identity, or you may need to do that first.
Step 4: Verify your identity
You’ll need to provide a government-issued ID before you’re approved for an account. Most banks will let you take a picture of your ID with your phone, though some banks require that you verify your identity in person. If you’re already a customer of the bank, you may be able to skip this step.
Step 5: Make a deposit
Most accounts will require you to make an opening deposit using a debit card or an account and routing number for an existing bank account. If this is your first bank account and you plan to make an opening deposit in cash, you’ll likely need to sign up for an account at a bank branch.
Step 6: Your debit card arrives
If the account you signed up for includes a debit card, it’ll arrive in the mail after you’ve been approved — you’ll find out how long it takes to ship in the confirmation email. The debit card and PIN are sent to you separately for security reasons. When you get your card, you need to sign the back and activate it so you can make withdrawals. This is a simple process that can be completed over the phone or online.
Step 7: Start using it!
Your account is ready to go. You’ll be able to make deposits and withdrawals, as well as use any other features associated with your account. To finish setting everything up:
- Set up Internet banking. This lets you manage your money and make payments to other accounts from your phone, computer or tablet. Download the account provider’s app and follow the on-screen instructions to set up your online banking.
- Switch your direct debits and automatic payments. If you signed up for a checking account, decide if you want to transfer all of your automatic payments to your new account. If so, you’ll need to sign into your existing accounts with your creditors and change your bank account information.
To open an account online, you’ll generally need to:
- Be a US resident with a US residential address
- Be at least 18 years old — some banks will let minors open an account with a guardian
- Be able to provide a government-issued ID
What do I need to open a bank account online?
The whole process shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. If you’re at least 18 years old, you can apply for most accounts online. You’ll be provided with a checklist of things you should have with you before you apply. If you’re an existing customer of the bank, make sure you have your relevant customer ID or account number.
Requiring ID helps banks protect you from fraud. If someone gets ahold of your Social Security number, they could apply for an account in your name to hide illegal money — or even open a line of credit. Banks verify your ID to make sure it’s really you opening the account, and not someone trying to steal your identity.
Most accounts allow you to apply for a joint account with one or more people. If you’re applying for a joint account, all account holders will need to provide their personal information, including Social Security number(s) and ID.
Some institutions will let you open a bank account online with no deposit, but most times you’ll have to put a little money down. Minimum required deposits often increase with a higher interest rate or better features offered.
Benefits of opening an account online
There’s no need to visit a branch to open a bank account anymore. You can open a bank account, deposit money and set up automatic payments all from the comfort of your home. Once you’ve applied, just wait for the card to be sent you in the mail, activate the account and you’re good to go.
- You can skip the bank queues.
- The application forms are easy to use.
- It usually takes less than 10 minutes.
What to watch out for when opening up a bank account online
You may have to visit a local branch to open a bank account if you run into any of these challenges.
- No credit. Most banks verify your identity by doing a soft pull on your credit. If you haven’t built any credit yet, you may need to visit a local branch to verify your identity and complete your application process.
- Chexsystems report. If you have a negative banking history because you’ve previously bounced checks or had insufficient funds, your application may be denied when you open an account online. But visiting a local branch could increase your chances of getting an approval.
- A minor. Anyone under age 18 can’t open a bank account without a parent or legal guardian co-signing on the account. Most banks require you to visit a local branch to set up this type of account.
- Non-US citizen. Nonresidents can still open accounts at some banks in the US, but there are extra hurdles to jump through. You may be required to bring your passport as well as your green card, work visa or student ID to a local branch to verify your identity and complete the application process.
Compare online bank accounts
The days of spending an hour at the bank to open an account are gone, and you can open a new checking or savings account from your computer or phone in minutes. But don’t let the speed and convenience rush you into making a decision. Compare savings accounts or checking accounts before getting started to find the one that’s right for you.
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