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Guide to Opening a Bank Account Online

Opening a Bank Account Online Step-by-Step
Emma Diehl
Emma DiehlUpdated January 31, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
If you need a new place to stash your cash, you may be wondering, “How can I open a bank account online?” You can open a bank account online at the website of your chosen bank, whether it’s digital-only or has brick-and-mortar branches. The site will tell you what to do and list the information and documents you’ll need to provide. You may need to have funds ready to transfer into the new account. After you submit your application, the bank may take a few business days to process and approve it. After that, your deposits are credited to the account.The process is usually straightforward. Here’s a quick overview.

Can You Open a Bank Account Online?

By definition, online banks (also called “direct banks”) conduct their business on the web, so all customers open their accounts online. Many brick-and-mortar banks include account sign-up options on their websites or apps. Overall, banksaim to make this process simple and quick because they want your business. 

Opening a Bank Account Online vs. In Person

If you open an account online, you won’t necessarily get the same kind of immediate attention that you would at a branch.If you go to a bank branch to open an account, you work with one of its employees to fill out the application form. That’s convenient if you have questions or concerns about account details. Given travel and waiting time, though, opening an account this way may take a bit longer. If you can’t get to the bank during business hours or you’d rather avoid the errand altogether, you can open a bank account online. It will involve filling out one or more electronic forms on your own. You may be asked to scan and upload identification documents. This online method may be quick and convenient, but it has downsides too. If you have any issues filling out the application or questions about the account’s terms and conditions, you’ll have to connect with the online help desk or call customer service. Getting the answers you need may take some time.

How Opening a Bank Account Online Works

With the right documents at hand, opening a checking or savings account online can take less than an hour. Plus you can fill out the application at any time, from any location, on your own schedule. 

Can Anyone Open a Bank Account Online?

Most people who are 18 or older can open bank accounts online. There are some situations where a branch visit may be needed before the bank will approve the account. For example, if the person applying for the new account is under 18, the bank often requires a parent or guardian to be a co-owner. Both of you may have to visit the branch to set up the account.For applicants without a credit history, an in-person appointment may be needed. The bank will run a soft credit check before approving the account. If the applicant’s credit file is unscorable, the bank might recommend they stop by to discuss account options. Or perhaps the bank requires an initial deposit to open an account, but you don’t have another account to transfer from. You’d have to deposit cash or a check, probably at a bank branch.

Is Opening a Bank Account Online Free?

Many banks offer free checking and savings accounts withno initial deposit required. But to use your new account, you’ll need to fund it. The initial deposit amount depends on the bank but typically ranges from $25 to $100.

4 Steps to Opening a Bank Account Online

As noted above, opening a bank account online can take less than an hour if you’ve made preparations in advance. 

1. Gathering Documents

The bank will want some official documentation to confirm the details in your application. It’s smart to take time to find the papers you need before setting up the account. Banks can ask you for any or all of the following.

Proof of Residence

You’ll need to provide your address when opening a bank account online. In addition, you may be required to show proof of residence, which can include:
  • Mortgage documents or residential lease
  • Utility bills
  • Bank statements
  • Vehicle registration
  • Homeowners or renter’s insurance statements

ID

The online application may ask you to upload an image of your ID. This can be a driver’s license, state ID, passport, or other government-issued photo ID.

Other Information

Your new account may require an opening deposit. If so, after you set up the account online, you’ll need to transfer money into it from another account. Be ready to provide the account number and bank routing number of the source account. 

2. Comparing Different Banks

Before you choose a bank, it’s worth window shopping at a few different institutions, paying close attention to their account perks and rules. You can often find the specifics by searching a bank’s site for “disclosures” or “limitations.”

Rewards

Some banks offer rewards such as cash bonuses for opening a new account and depositing a certain amount. The bank might give cash-back rewards for spending once your account is open.

Interest Rates

An account’s interest rate, or the percentage of your balance that the bank pays you in return for holding your money, varies by bank. You may want to shop around for the highest interest rate

ATMs

If you value the convenience of depositing and withdrawing cash, take a look at a candidate bank’s ATM network. Are there ATM locations near where you live? If not, you may have to use another bank’s machine, in which case you may incur a fee. Alternatively, check to see if the bank you’re researching offers reimbursements for ATM charges. 

Fees

Some bank accounts will entail hidden charges, including maintenance fees, minimum balance fees, and foreign transaction fees. Before opening a bank account online, read its rules and disclosures to understand any fees that may be associated with it.

3. Filling Out an Application

A bank account application usually asks for personal details such as:
  • Name
  • Home address
  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Phone number
  • E-mail
As mentioned, the bank may request that you upload or fax images of your documents as part of the application process. 

4. Funding Your Account

Once you’ve completed your application and opened your account, it’s time to deposit money. Unless the bank requires a minimum deposit, you’ll want to transfer cash from another account or deposit cash into the account from an ATM. Depending on your plans for the account, you may decide to fund it by setting up direct deposit of your paychecks. After that, you may want to use the account to auto-pay bills and other expenses.

Explore Your Banking Options With Lantern

Bank accounts come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s smart to assess several different options before choosing one. In inflationary times, a high-yield savings account can be a good bet.Lantern can help you compare online savings accounts and find today’s best rate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to open a bank account online?
How hard is it to open a bank account online?
Is opening a bank account online safe?
Photo credit: iStock/fizkes
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About the Author

Emma Diehl

Emma Diehl

Emma Diehl is a nationally-published journalist with expertise in finance, real estate, and technology. Her work has appeared on NPR, The Huffington Post, Technical.ly, and numerous local publications. When she's not covering the world of personal finance with SoFi, she's probably rollerblading or planning her next meal.
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