Opening a bank account online

Everything you need to know to get started

People do nearly everything online these days—including big things like applying for jobs, making large purchases and booking travel. But when it comes to the question of how to open a bank account online, is it really as easy as a few clicks or will you end up having to do it in person?

Good news: Setting up a checking or savings account online can be quite simple and take mere minutes.1 So how does it work, and what can you expect? How do you know if you’ll even get approved?

First things first: Who can open a bank account online?

Most anyone can apply to open an account. But it’s up to individual banks if they want to let you open an account with them.2 That means some banks might deny applications from people with a history of unpaid negative balances, involuntary account closures or suspected fraud issues.3

If you’ve been denied a checking account, there may still be options. Some banks offer second-chance accounts. But these accounts may not offer all the same services and might have monthly fees.4

Can you open a bank account online for free?

There are free online bank accounts—both checking and savings—that require no deposit. Some banks will require you to put a little money in your account when you create it. This is called a minimum opening deposit, and it can vary based on the type of account you choose. To put that first deposit in your account, you could use a blank check, transfer money from another account or use a credit or debit card.

What does it take to open a bank account online?

Once you’ve decided which bank you want to use, it’s time to fill out your application online. If you’re under 18, you may need a guardian to co-sign the account. The application process will vary from bank to bank. But all banks are required to verify your identity.5 So it’s helpful to have the following things handy:

  • Your driver’s license, passport or other government-issued ID card
  • Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  • A blank check, debit card or credit card to make that first deposit

And you’ll usually need an email address, mailing address and a phone number. Once you have that ready, here’s how to open a bank account online:

  1. Go to the bank’s website. Stay safe! Any time you’re entering personal information online, take extra care. Find the link to "open an account." (Scroll down the homepage to the site map if you’re having trouble finding the link.)
  2. Choose the type of account you want. Most banks let you compare different kinds of accounts to help you decide. Do you want an individual account or do you want to open a joint account online? Do you want things like overdraft protection and the ability to earn interest? From checking and savings accounts to CDs and IRAs, there are many types of accounts you can open online.
  3. Fill out an application. Next, you’ll enter all of your personal information. You might also set up your username and password and create security questions to help protect your account.
  4. Agree to let the bank collect some information. Sometimes, submitting your application will automatically begin the approval process, but some banks might ask you to review disclosures and privacy policies first. In some cases you’ll have to answer a few legal questions then check a box that lets the bank collect information about you and your credit.
  5. Check the approval process. Some banks will tell you if you’re approved right away, while others might take a bit longer. You can always sign in later to check on the status of your application or call the bank if you have questions. If you’re not approved, you might have to go into the branch to finish the process.
  6. Make your first deposit. Once you’re approved, you’ll want to put some money in your new account. You can do this from another account online or over the phone. If it’s your first account, you may need to do this step in person with cash or a check.

With your account set up, you’re all ready to begin banking online! Depending on the account and its features, you may be able to write checks, pay bills with your bank account online, set up direct deposit and more right away. And remember: Always keep your username and password in a safe place where no one can find it.

Down the road, you may wonder "Can I close a bank account online?" You can, but each bank handles it a bit differently. Gather your account information, then check your bank’s policy on its website. Or call or stop by if you’d prefer to discuss it in person.6

Banking today brings lots of choices, including the ability to get a whole lot done from the comfort of your home. From opening an account to paying bills, online banking was built for convenience–yours.

Of course, there will always be hoops to jump through, but making things simpler while safeguarding your money is what online banking is all about.

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