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How to open a bank account online
Skip the bank branch visit and sign up for a US bank account from your home.
Opening a US bank account online usually takes about five to 10 minutes, depending on whether you’re a new or existing customer. While it might take longer for specific account types that require additional documentation, such as a business bank account, the speed and convenience of skipping an in-person visit to your bank branch is priceless. Here’s a rundown of what to expect when you open a bank account online.
8 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 what bank account best fits your needs, including a checking or savings account, cash management account or a money market account. When weighing bank account types, you’ll want to consider what the purpose of the account is, such as to earn interest or for everyday spending.
Factor in the card type, minimum balance requirements, whether you can bank online or via an app, and any fees, including ATM withdrawal fees, monthly fees and potential account fee waivers. And then round out your research by considering its benefits and features, including overdraft protection and rewards.
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: Review the deposit agreement
Be sure to read through the account’s terms and conditions, which generally cover its fees and how much of your money is insured by the FDIC. For regular bank accounts like checking and savings, the FDIC protects you up to $250,000. But for other accounts, such as cash management accounts, your banking institution can insure more — even up to $1 million.
Step 4: Apply for your account online
If you’re at least 18 years old, you can apply for most accounts online. Click Go to site and a new window will open, sending you to the account provider’s website, a secure online application and 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.
On the application, you’ll need to provide basic information about yourself such as your name, date of birth, address and social security number. Be careful not to leave your computer unattended for too long because the webpage can time out and you’ll need to restart the process.
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 also come with instructions on verifying your identity.
Step 5: 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 6: 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 7: Activate your debit card
If your account includes an ATM or debit card, you’ll need to sign the back and activate it online or over the phone so you can make withdrawals. The debit card and PIN may be sent to you separately for security reasons.
Step 8: 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 online banking. This lets you manage your money, view electronic statements and make payments to other accounts from your phone, computer or tablet. Go to the provider’s website or download its app and follow the on-screen instructions to set up this feature.
- 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 meet these requirements:
- US resident with a US residential address
- At least 18 years old — some banks will let minors open an account with a guardian
- Provide a government-issued ID
- Provide a Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN)
3 things you need to open a bank account online
Have the following items ready to complete the application online:
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.
You may need to submit a photo of your government-issued ID card or input the details manually.
2. Personal information
The application requires personal details, including your full name, residential address, date of birth and Social Security number. Most accounts allow you to apply for a joint account with one or more people but each person will need to provide their personal info.
If you’re a current customer, you might already have all this information already saved in your account, which the application may pre-populate for your convenience. All you’ll need to do is verify your information is still accurate.
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. If the account requires an opening deposit, you’ll need to input your banking info, such as account and routing number, from an external account to initiate a transfer.
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 to 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
Compare other products by fee, APY and minimum opening deposit. Click the tabs at the top of the table to compare other account types, depending on your needs.
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. Before getting started, compare savings accounts or checking accounts to find the one that’s right for you.
Image source: Getty Images
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