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Opening a bank account online is much more convenient than heading down to a bank branch, and it's usually easy, too. Whether you choose an online or brick-and-mortar bank, the steps are more or less the same.
You should open an account online if you want to get it done fast, at home, or with minimal upselling. Many banks let you open accounts this way.
Ready to start? Here's what you need to know to open a bank account online right away.
Here are the basic steps you'll take when opening a bank account online:
We'll look at each of these steps in detail below.
You'll have to make two key decisions about where to house your money: which kind of institution you want to work with and which type of account you need.
There are three basic types of financial institutions you'll run into. Each has its pros and cons.
LEARN MORE: The pros and cons of online banks
Brick-and-mortar banks have large branch networks throughout a region or across the nation. These banks typically have many types of products and services, and they're known for great customer service. But they tend to charge maintenance fees unless you meet specific criteria, and their annual percentage yields (APYs) on savings products are low.
Online banks are becoming increasingly popular because they offer high APYs and charge few fees. These banks don't have any branches, so opening an account online is your only option. But many still have a nationwide ATM network, so you can easily access your cash. Online banking may be right for you if you prefer to do everything online and don't anticipate needing in-person help.
Credit unions aren't technically banks, but they offer similar services. Credit unions usually operate in smaller service areas and most have branch networks. They offer slightly more competitive APYs and fees than large brick-and-mortar banks, but they still fall behind most online banks.
There are four main bank account types you may want to consider:
Checking accounts are ideal for money you plan to use for everyday spending. Most include checks and a debit card so you can directly withdraw funds and move money around electronically. But these accounts usually don't offer any interest on your money.
Savings accounts are best for your emergency fund or money you plan to use within the next five years or so. These accounts offer interest on your savings, but they usually limit your access to your funds. Most don't include any checks or debit cards.
Money market accounts share some features of checking and savings accounts. They help you earn interest on your funds, and may also give you some means of directly withdrawing cash from the account. However, these accounts often have higher opening or ongoing balance requirements.
Certificates of deposit (CDs) are another option for savings you don't plan to use for the next several years. These accounts can offer higher APYs than you'll find with savings accounts, but you must agree to leave the money alone for several months or years. If you take your money out early, you could face penalties.
RELATED: See The Ascent's guide to the different types of bank accounts.
If you plan to open a money market account -- or any other bank account type, for that matter -- you'll need the following information:
If you have any questions about required documentation, you can always check the bank's website or contact its customer service department for support.
Visit the website for the bank you plan to open an account with, and navigate to the page for the account you're interested in. Look for the "Apply Now" or "Open an Account" button and fill out the application page it brings you to. Most banks will ask for the following:
Depending on the bank, you may need to scan a copy of your government-issued ID or fax it to the bank. You may also have to submit a copy of your signature for the bank to have on hand for verification purposes.
Again, if you have any questions during the application process, you can always reach out to the bank directly for assistance.
Most banks will require you to deposit some funds into the bank account as soon as you open it or within a certain number of days after opening. You can fund your account several ways:
Some banks may have minimum opening deposit requirements. For example, if you're opening a checking account online and it asks for a $100 minimum opening deposit, you must have at least $100 ready to deposit. Otherwise, you can't open the account. That's different from an ongoing balance requirement, which is the amount you need deposited to maintain to avoid a monthly maintenance fee.
If you choose a checking account with one or both of these requirements, you must stay mindful of your checking account balance over time to avoid monthly fees.
If you've never taken advantage of digital (online) banking, you may be surprised by how convenient it is. For example, Axos provides unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursement, Sofi offers more than 55,000 no-fee Allpoint ATMs, and Ally customers have access to more than 43,000 no-fee ATMs. That means if you're out tooling around town, it's likely there will be a fee-free ATM nearby.
Here are a few of our favorite online banks, with benefits and interest rates that are tough to beat.
Axos saves customers money by never charging a maintenance or non-sufficient fund fee. Better yet, there are no minimum monthly balance requirements you must maintain during those months when funds are tight. Axos Bank earns customers money by paying up to 3.30% APY on checking account balances and 1% cash back for frequent debit card use.
One of our favorite things about Axos Bank is its online personal finance manager, which allows customers to manage all their accounts in one place. And like most other banks in the U.S., funds are insured through the FDIC for up to $250,000 per depositor, per bank.
There is no minimum balance requirement with SoFi, and SoFi never charges monthly fees. In addition, SoFi provides automatic no-fee overdraft coverage for up to $50 to customers who have their checks direct-deposited. For customers who frequently carry a balance in their checking account, SoFi pays an APY of up to 0.5%.
Another benefit of directly depositing checks is that customers are eligible to receive their paychecks up to two days early. SoFi also offers up to 15% cash back at local establishments for customers who pay for purchases using their debit card.
No pesky maintenance fees or minimum balances are required at Ally Bank. Up to 0.25% APY can be earned on a daily balance. Customers with both a checking and an online savings account also receive the benefit of rounding up. Here's how it works: Ally tracks transactions, automatically rounds up to the nearest dollar, and transfers that amount to savings. Let's say a customer purchases something for $19.51. That payment would be rounded up to $20, and $0.49 would be transferred to savings. It's an easy, relatively painless way to plump a savings account.
A feature that regularly lands Ally on our "best of" list is its double line of defense against accidental overdrafts. Customers can use Ally's overdraft transfer benefit or its CoverDraft service as a safety net against returned payments.
The bank might take a couple of days to verify your information and process your funds. But once it does so, you can start using your new bank account. If you don't already have one, you can create an online account to view your balance and transfer your funds.
If your account comes with a debit card, your bank will mail this to you. And if it offers check-writing capabilities, you can purchase checks to use with the account.
LEARN MORE: Beginners Guide to Banking
Some banks may enable you to open an account without an initial deposit. But most will require you to put at least some money in the account within 30 or 60 days or the bank will close the account.
Online-only banks always permit online applications, and many large, brick-and-mortar banks also permit online applications.
Many people find opening a bank account online more convenient than scheduling an appointment with a banker at a branch location. But it all depends on your personal preferences. If you'd rather have another person walk you through it, you may prefer opening a bank account in person.
Our Banking Experts
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