How to Open a Bank Account Online
In a busy world, the ability to do things online is priceless. Fortunately, you can complete most banking tasks online—even opening your account, in many cases. That means you don’t need to make trips to a branch or print and sign paper forms. It's all handled digitally, and once your account is open, you can transfer funds and pay bills online.
What You Need to Open an Account
To open a bank account online, be prepared to provide personal information so the bank can verify your identity. You may also need to arrange for electronic deposits to your new online bank account. Gather the following items before you start the process:
Personal information: You need to tell the bank who you are and provide personal details about yourself. So be prepared to give:
- Your Social Security number
- Your date of birth
- Any government-issued ID (driver’s license, passport, U.S. military ID, etc.) numbers, with the issue and expiration dates
Contact information: Banks need your home address, phone number, and email address. Even though you’re operating in the virtual world, federal law requires you to provide a physical address—where you actually live—but you can also give a post office box or the equivalent as a mailing address.
Funding information: Banks often require an initial deposit to get your account opened; typically, it's from $25 to $100. To do that, you might be able to use your credit or debit card. Alternatively, you can provide routing and account numbers to create a link to another bank account.
Signatures and E-Signatures
With some banks, you’re done opening your account once you provide that information. You can sign any legal agreements with an e-signature and can start using the account almost immediately. Even many small credit unions and regional banks accept e-signatures. If you have an idea of where you’d like to bank, simply visit that institution’s website and look for an option to do something along the lines of “Open an Account Now.”
Other banks let you begin your application online but eventually require an actual signature. In such situations, you typically get a "Welcome Kit" in the mail containing any required documents, including a formal signature card. Although the writing of paper checks is on the decline, these banks still like your file to contain an official signature to verify a check or debit card purchase in the event of a dispute.
If you need to use your new account quickly, call the bank and ask what the process is. If the bank needs your signature on paper, you may need to wait longer before using your account while the bank processes your paperwork. You might be better off opening an account in person or going with a bank that lets you open an account entirely online.
Challenges Opening an Account Online
In some cases, you need to visit a branch or provide additional documentation to open an account. Some common reasons include:
“Thin” credit: Banks verify your identity as you open your account. One of the ways they do this is by checking your credit. (Yes, they check your credit even if you’re not borrowing money.) If you don’t have much of a credit history—because you’re young and haven’t borrowed enough to build credit, for example—they won’t find anything. As a result, they may require you visit a branch with a government-issued ID to open your account.
Under 18: People under the age of 18 cannot open bank accounts on their own. If you’re a minor and want a checking or savings account, there are bank accounts for people under 18, but you will need an adult co-owner on the account and might need to visit a branch in person.
Checking account history: If you have overdrawn checking accounts or have been suspected of fraud in the past—or shared an account with someone who has—you might not be able to open a new checking account online. Be sure to review your ChexSystems report for errors if you’re having a hard time getting an account. Again, you might have better luck at a branch.
Citizenship: It’s easiest to open accounts online if you’re a U.S. citizen. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible if you’re not a citizen, but a visit to the branch might be necessary.
Entity accounts: Most banks with online account opening allow people to open an account. If you need an account for a business, trust, or other organization, some banks require you to head to the branch or submit account forms by mail. The ability to open these accounts online is increasingly available, but it’s still not a given.
To open a business account, you will need your employer identification number (EIN); your business formation documents, such as your articles of organization and operating agreement; and federal, state, and local business licenses and permits, if applicable.
If you’re having any difficulty, your best bet for getting an account opened online is to use an online-only bank, because they’ve been doing this for years.
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