How Easy Is It to Open a Bank Account Online?

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Updated on Monday, June 21, 2021

Opening a bank account online can be quick and easy — as long as you have the necessary materials, an idea of what account is best for your needs, the necessary financial credentials and access to the internet. Read on to learn how to open a bank account online and feel prepared before you apply.

How to open a bank account online

Opening a bank account online can take just a few minutes — and for online banks without brick-and-mortar locations, this is the primary way to open a new account. Each financial institution’s process for opening a bank account might look a little different, but there are many consistent steps. In general, in order to open a bank account online, you’ll do the following:

  1. Go to the website for your selected financial institution.
  2. Find the type of account you want to open and locate its application.
  3. Complete the application by providing all required materials for opening a bank account, including an opening deposit (if required by the bank).
  4. Give consent to the bank to perform any necessary steps, such as verifying your identity and/or reviewing your banking history.
  5. Wait to be approved and/or receive any materials, such as a new debit card, in the mail.
    • If your application is denied, you may need to visit a physical branch to discuss any issues with your application and complete the application process, or call and speak with a service representative on the phone in the case of an online bank.

What do you need to open a bank account online?

When opening an account online, you’ll be required to provide many of the same materials that you would need to bring in person. Make sure you have the following handy:

  • A government-issued photo ID: Items that qualify include a U.S. passport, driver’s license, state-issued identification card or military identification card. If you don’t have any of these items, your preferred financial institution may accept other forms of ID instead.
  • A second form of ID: This will likely be your Social Security number (SSN) for an online application, but having a birth certificate or billing statement with both your name and current address on hand (materials that are more common to provide in person) can be helpful just in case.
  • Basic personal information: Although a Social Security number is generally preferred, if you don’t have one, an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) may also be accepted. Otherwise, some financial institutions will accept a passport number and country of issuance, a permanent resident card number or another government-issued ID number. Banks will also need your current address, date of birth and preferred phone number.
  • Proof of address: You may need to prove your current address with either a lease, utility bill or another item of mail that contains both your name and address.
  • Initial deposit: Although not all banks require an initial deposit, many do. There are several ways to make a deposit online, including ACH transfer orwire transfer. If you’re transferring money from an existing account, be sure you know its account and routing numbers.

If you’re opening a joint account with someone else, be sure that both of you prepare the materials listed above.

What type of bank account can you open online?

There are many different accounts that can be opened online, so you’ll see much of the same flexibility starting an account online as you would see going to a physical branch. Here are just a few different accounts you can open online and how they can meet your specific financial needs:

  • Savings accounts:Savings accounts allow you to collect a generally small amount of interest on your money. Typically, customers can make up to six withdrawals a month for their savings account, with a fee charged for any additional withdrawals. This type of account is less liquid than a standard checking account.
  • Checking accounts:Checking accounts are highly liquid accounts allowing for unlimited deposits and withdrawals of funds. Due to their liquidity, they generally offer little interest, making checking accounts better for direct deposits and everyday expenses.
  • Money market accounts:Money market accounts usually earn higher interest than savings accounts while also typically requiring a higher minimum deposit or balance. Though usually still limited to six monthly withdrawals, money market accounts typically come with checks and ATM cards to enhance their accessibility.
  • CDs:Certificates of deposit (CDs) generally offer greater interest rates, as long as you don’t touch your money for a set period of time — which can range from days to years. If you try to withdraw funds before a particular date, you’ll likely face early-withdrawal fees.
  • IRAs:Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) allow you to put away money and collect interest in preparation for your retirement. Once money is deposited into one of these accounts, your funds are typically untouchable before the age of 59 ½ or without a qualifying exemption— unless you pay a hefty fee.

In addition, if there’s another form of bank account you’re interested in opening online, do some research online to avoid unnecessary trips to physical branches.

Which bank should you open an account with?

Determining which bank to do business with is a highly personal choice based on your needs and goals, but you should consider several factors to find the right bank for you. Items to research include fees, interest rates, whether the institution is insured by the FDIC or NCUA and what mobile apps and digital flexibility the bank offers.

If creating an account online instead of in person is already a priority for you, it’s probably also important for you to consider what digital opportunities your selected bank offers once you become a customer.

Some banking apps are better than others, so think about the features you’ll want or need. Many banks offer digital features such as mobile check deposit, bill pay and budgeting tools. Once you narrow down what you are looking for, this can help to decide what bank is best for you.

When you can’t open a bank account online

There are times when opening a bank account online isn’t possible or easy. If you’re having difficulty understanding or completing an online application — or don’t want to receive electronic documents or share your personal information virtually — you can skip the online process and call the bank or visit it in person.

Many banks may require you visit a branch in person, as long as they’re a brick-and-mortar institution, if you’re not a U.S. citizen. This is because financial institutions may need to further verify your identity in person or their online process isn’t designed to accept foreign credentials. There may be other instances where a bank requests you go to a branch too — for example, if you’re under 18 and opening an account with a parent or guardian, or if you have a poor financial history.

Opening a bank account online: FAQs

All banks require that you verify your identity before you open an account. If the concern is that you do not have a standard form of identification requested by banks — such as a driver’s license, state ID or U.S. passport — be sure to research your desired financial institution to learn what other forms of identification they will accept.

There are banks that allow customers to open an account with no initial deposit of funds. When reflecting on your needs, if you know you may struggle at times to meet account minimums and other account funding restrictions, it may be best to research and find an account with flexibility to avoid fees and keep you on track financially.

Many banks offer free money for opening a bank account in person or online. Bonuses are often offered for both checking accounts and savings accounts. Since many banks offer free money bonuses, be sure to understand your selected bank’s bonus guidelines parameters to ensure you don’t miss out on your account opening bonus.