Banking » Guides » How To Open A Bank Account Online: Step By Step Guide
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How To Open A Bank Account Online: Step By Step Guide

Today, it's easy and quick to open a bank account online. From preparing your documents to the initial deposit: here's our step-by-step guide
Author: Lorraine Smithills
Lorraine Smithills

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Lorraine is a freelance finance writer with years of experience in the banking sector and after a successful career in one of the largest retail and commercial financial services providers. She has a passion for helping people with less financial confidence to get control of their money through budgeting, saving, and responsible credit practices.
Interest Rates Last Update: April 15, 2024
The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.
Author: Lorraine Smithills
Lorraine Smithills

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Lorraine is a freelance finance writer with years of experience in the banking sector and after a successful career in one of the largest retail and commercial financial services providers. She has a passion for helping people with less financial confidence to get control of their money through budgeting, saving, and responsible credit practices.
Interest Rates Last Update: April 15, 2024

The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.

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Table Of Content

The world has dramatically changed. Now, the ease of applying online for a bank account has opened the door to options, better deposit rates, lower fees, and greater access to ATMs.

The phenomenon of online banks, sometimes called virtual or branchless, has arisen, too, for those with no need ever to enter a physical bank. With so many choices, it’s important to understand your needs and decide which bank fits them.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which insures deposits at federally-regulated banks, lists the below reasons people give for opening a bank account:

  • Get access to your money faster and with lower fees than a check-cashing service
  • Legal protection against fraud if you notify your bank as soon as possible
  • Make online purchases with ease and peace of mind
  • Pay your bills online without mailing or dropping off your payment

5 Steps To Open A Bank Account Online

Opening a bank account shouldn't be a hassle. You can complete the process in a couple of minutes with the right preparation.

Here are the main steps you should take when applying for a new banks account online:

1. Pick The Right Bank For Your Needs

The first step in opening an account is to find the right bank for you. One of the best ways to find out about online banks and be rewarded is to ask your network for a referral.

Some banks offer cash incentives to new customers and referrals (so long as they maintain a balance for a while). When opening your account, your friend or colleague can send you a sign-up link or passcode.

The other way is internet research. This can take longer and needs more care because you cannot rely on a colleague or friend’s recommendation. However, this way, you can compare a variety of banks.

Choose Smartly By Setting Your Top Priorities

Each person’s preferences will differ, so be aware certain banks are better at providing select services than others. For example, if you’ve decided on buying a house in the near future, you may want to pick a bank with:

  • Low mortgage rates
  • Mortgage terms that fit your situation and allow for some flexibility, i.e. refinancing to fund a future renovation
  • High-interest rate on savings to build up a down payment

Use these priorities in your search or let your network know why you’re looking for an online bank. This will narrow down your options and make it easier to choose.

Bank/Institution
Minimum Deposit
Chase
$0
PNC Bank
$0
Bank of America
$25 – $100
Capital One
$0
Wells Fargo
$25
Discover
$0
Citibank
$0
US Bank
$25
TD Bank
$0

2. Prepare Your Documents

Before opening your new account online, make sure you have the required documents ready:

  • Proof of your name and date of birth on a driver’s license, passport or other government-issued documents
  • Social Security number
  • Your phone number and email address
  • Proof of physical U.S. address
  • Employment location, job title, work phone number and salary

Banks may ask for more documentation to verify your identity if you have limited work or credit history, if this includes you then have it ready. Most banks allow joint applicants but require individual signature forms before approval. Banks are careful about correctly identifying customers, especially those they may never meet in-person.

Things To Look For When Gathering Documents

This step is normally the one that slows down the whole process and causes the most headaches. Follow these tips to avoid hassles:

  • Check your expiration dates – banks will not accept expired documents as details, like marital status or address, could have changed
  • Stick to the requirements – do not submit documents that are not asked for, it causes confusion and can even be a red flag that you’re trying to cover something else up
  • Don’t submit unclear digital copies – banks need to be able to read your documents, verify they are in-focus and completely within the frame. If you’re struggling, take them into a print or photocopy shop for help creating digital versions

Banks with minimum deposit amounts often require this payment during your application, have your existing bank details ready. See step 5 for more.

documents to prepare when open a bank account
Passport, driver license or government ID is required (Photo by goodluz/Shutterstock)

3. Go Ahead And Apply

You’re all ready to hit apply and submit your documents. But, before you do anything, ensure you have a secure internet connection at home and avoid public wi-fi – you wouldn’t want to be the victim of identity crime by having your vital documents intercepted online.

Your selected bank may offer some types of checking accounts with different tiers of monthly fees and features. 

Here are a few tips for a smooth application process:

  • Take it slow and read carefully – not all banks have adapted to the ease and simplicity of being online, they may have lengthy legal conditions and disclaimers for you to read and accept before proceeding. Don’t click “Accept” without first understanding why it’s needed
  • Use help – online banks usually offer help in a few ways: frequently asked questions, chat bots, online chat with a person or by telephone. If you’re struggling, make use of the help available
  • Finish in one sitting – it may be a lengthy process but walking away may cause the webpage to timeout or risk mishaps, like your cat sitting on the keyboard!
  • Joint applicants – all joint applicants are needed for the application process, try to set time aside to all be present

4. Set A Secure Password And Wait For Approval

One underappreciated step in your online application is choosing your username and password for online banking. This is all the more important if the bank is completely online as you can’t simply pop-in to a local branch.

Hacking, fraud, scams and account takeovers are common and the move online has opened more doors to bad actors wanting to steal your money. Your bank will warn you occasionally about the need for security protocols, take it seriously.

Here are the best ways to stay secure:

  • Follow password best practices – the Federal Trade Commission has a checklist you can follow
  • Turn-on security features – optional features like two-factor authentication boost your security and are worth the slight inconvenience
  • Learn about common scams and stay informed – one way to avoid your money being stolen is knowing the types of attacks you might face. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau lists these on its Fraud page.

5. Make Initial Deposit And Start Using Your Account

If the bank has a minimum deposit amount, you will need to provide this using an existing bank account, debit card, check or money order. The transfer is only made once your account is approved but may still be initiated at the time of applying.

Some banks prefer one payment method over others so check with them before sending any payment and ask for notification that it’s been received safely.

When I Can Start Using It?

Once your bank account is opened and you are provided access, which can take as little as one day, remember to update where your paycheck goes and set up bill payments, so you don’t miss any deadlines. Any paper account agreements are usually received by mail within ten days.

Be aware, a bank may require further documents or a meeting in person after opening your account. This will mean restrictions are placed on the account until you take these actions. If your situation changes, you move home for example, let your bank know so they can update your account.

Opening an online bank account process should be faster and simple compared to opening a traditional checking account.

Why Can't I Open A Bank Account Online?

If the bank can’t verify your identity with an online onboarding process, they will need to collect other forms of ID (driver’s license, passport) and may ask you to come into a branch in person. The hold-up may simply be a spelling error on your application, shorter-than-desired credit history or perhaps you are new to the country.

Federal anti-money laundering law determines banks’ policies on verifying identity so this must be resolved before account setup.

On the other hand, the bank may deny your application because of previous credit issues, including overdrafts and unpaid balances, suspicion of fraud, or a joint account with someone with these issues.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is established to ensure banks treat you fairly, help you understand your rights, and has useful information on what to do next. In the case of denial, you can request “the name of the checking account reporting company … [and] obtain a free copy of your report and review it for any errors.

How Long Until I Can Use My Online Bank Account?

Online bank accounts are generally opened quickly and ready for use within one or two days. This depends on a few factors though:

  • Application issues, including the need for additional verification, will slow down processing time
  • Need to appear in-person, especially if nearest branch is far away
  • The volume of other applications the bank is processing

Banks will usually provide login information by secure e-mail once you’re approved and by mail (can take 7-10 days) so you can verify your online account and begin transacting. It’s important to notify your bank of any errors or sudden changes in your personal details, address and phone number as quickly as possible.

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The product offers that appear on this site are from companies from which this website receives compensation.
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• Receive a cash bonus of $2,000 when you deposit or invest $200,000 – $299,999.99

• Receive a cash bonus of $2,500 when you deposit or invest $300,000 – 499,999.99

• Receive a cash bonus of $3,500 when you deposit or invest $500,000+

• Earn an extra $500 when you set up recurring monthly Direct Deposits totaling at least $5,000 for 3 months
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The product offers that appear on this site are from companies from which this website receives compensation.

Is It Safe To Open A Bank Account Online?

Yes, for the most part, online account applications are highly secure and use multiple layers of sophisticated checks to ensure you are who you say you are, thus preventing identity theft and that your information is not being observed by “bad actors.”

Still, you should be aware of cyber security threats and protect against them with virus protection and safe internet usage.

Banks generally will not ask for information by e-mail so, should you receive document requests or links appearing to be from your new bank, pay attention to the sender address, look for spelling mistakes and check the e-mail footer for why you are receiving this.

Remember, you should be able to login or call the dedicated customer support phone number to authenticate any communication and provide additional information by more secure channels than e-mail.

Bank account deposit insured up to $250,000
The standard insurance amount is $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for each account ownership (Photo by Cherdchai101/Shutterstock)

Tips For Opening A Bank Account Online

Aside from being vigilant for cyber threats, here are some further tips for applying online:

  • Are you already a customer? Opening an online bank account with the provider of your insurance or car loan will likely speed up the process and “bundling” services can cut costs.
  • Avoid delays by requesting your credit report before applying. This will alert you to outstanding issues you can resolve prior to applying, thereby improving your odds of approval.
  • Be specific about the services you need. If you will mostly be saving for upcoming expenses or retirement then make certain to look for banks with the right types of accounts, special offers and, most importantly, low or no fees.
  • Don’t fall for the latest marketing gimmick. Competition between banks is at its peak now that anyone with an internet connection is a potential customer. This means, to attract deposits, banks use short-term “teaser” savings rates, which rapidly expire. It’s best to look at the stable interest rates on offer and make a decision for the long term.
  • Stick with one bank. One popular hack you will often hear about from personal finance “influencers” is the benefits of jumping around, from bank to bank, for “free” airmiles on a credit card or giveaway gadget with a new checking account. Enticements split your attention and harm your progress towards the goal you originally set out to pursue.
  • Know somebody with an account? Some banks reward word-of-mouth marketing by offering cash to both their existing and new customers, so long as they stick around long enough. You can ask a friend at the bank you wish to join to provide you an “offer code” and enter that during the application process.
Bank/institution
Promotion
Min Deposit
Expiration
Axos Rewards Checking
$300
$50
06/30/2024
Chase Total Checking®
$300
$0
7/24/2024
Citi Personal Checking
$200 – $2,000
$10,000 – $300,000
1/9/24
SoFi Checking and Savings
$50 – $300
$1,000 – $5,000
06/30/2024
Bank Of America Advantage Banking Account
$200
$1,000 or more in direct deposits within 90 days
01/31/2024
Wells Fargo Everyday Checking
$300
$1,000
01/14/2024

FAQs

Yes, most banks offer online applications for joint account holders and request the same information in terms of identification.

Co-applicants will need to provide signatures and any additional documents needed from one will hold up the entire account opening so it’s best to be prepared and aware of potential issues.

Some banks, like Chase, which do not allow joint accounts to be opened online, will allow for another account holder to be added later by coming into a branch.

Chase offers various types of accounts (credit cards, checking, savings, etc.) to be opened online using a form that clearly outlines the most important fees and terms.

An account enables access online or through Chase’s mobile app. The bank has an impressive array of other products should your banking needs expand with time.

Keep in mind that Chase only allows individual accounts to be opened online. Once approved, a joint holder can be added by coming into a Chase branch and providing proof of identification for both individuals.

Bank of America answers questions about opening an account here and offers account opening online.

It’s line of Advantage checking and savings accounts are suited to students (SafeBalance), working adults (Plus) and higher-net worth individuals (Relationship), and can incur zero costs if you jump through a few hoops.

While applying, you can enter an “offer code” and add a joint account holder.

Citi offers online account applications for checking products here and break these down into Everyday and Premium. Everyday is further split into three options for relatively low sustained balances and typical services.

Premium is intended for customers with higher combined balances across checking, savings, investment and retirement accounts, offering Citi’s suite of professional wealth management advice. Citi allows joint applicants when applying online and requires employment and income information.

Wells Fargo offers three checking accounts you can apply for online here – their highest offering, Premier Checking, must be opened by appointment.

Clear Access Banking is aimed at students while Prime Checking is for working adults and offers discounted interest rates on new loans.

The monthly service fee is avoidable with a large enough balance across checking, saving, investment, and retirement accounts.

Banking Reviews

Picture of Lorraine Smithills

Lorraine Smithills

Lorraine is a freelance finance writer with years of experience in the banking sector and after a successful career in one of the largest retail and commercial financial services providers. She has a passion for helping people with less financial confidence to get control of their money through budgeting, saving, and responsible credit practices.
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Top Offers From Our Partners

Chase_logo

Promotion:
$300 New Chase checking customers enjoy a $300 bonus when you open a Chase Total Checking® account and make direct deposits totaling $500 or more within 90 days of coupon enrollment.. Expired on 7/24/2024
Chase Overdraft Assist
With Chase Overdraft AssistSM, you won’t be charged an Overdraft Fee if you’re overdrawn by $50 or less at the end of the business day OR if you’re overdrawn by more than $50 and you bring your account balance to overdrawn by $50 or less at the end of the next business day

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Fees:
No monthly fees No monthly fees and no overdraft fees. Plus get reimbursed for ATM fees with an active account 
Rewards:
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Promotion:
$300 Use Promo Code “AXOS300” for a $300 bonus when you apply for a Rewards Checking account
Up to 3.30% APY
to get the maximum rate (up to $50,000) you’ll need monthly direct deposits of $1,500 (0.40% APY), 10 transaction on your debit card (+0.30% APY), average daily balance of $2,500 on Axos Invest Managed Portfolio (+1.00% APY), average daily balance of $2,500 on Axos Invest Self Directed Trading Account(+1.00% APY) and make full monthly payment on loans (mortgage, personal and auto) with Axos account (+0.60% APY).

PNC bank logo

Promotion:
Up to $400 Open a new, select Virtual Wallet product and receive $500/$2,000/$5,000 or more in qualifying monthly direct deposits within 60 days to earn a $100/$200/$400 bonus.
Subject to state availability
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• Receive a cash bonus of $1,500 when you deposit or invest $100,000 – $199,999.99

• Receive a cash bonus of $2,000 when you deposit or invest $200,000 – $299,999.99

• Receive a cash bonus of $2,500 when you deposit or invest $300,000 – 499,999.99

• Receive a cash bonus of $3,500 when you deposit or invest $500,000+

• Earn an extra $500 when you set up recurring monthly Direct Deposits totaling at least $5,000 for 3 months
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