Open a Bank Account
Selecting the right bank and opening your first checking or savings account is an important financial step. With many account types and providers to choose from, it helps to understand key features, fees, and qualifications to find an account meeting your needs. This guide covers how to comparison shop for your optimal bank account and navigate the application process.
Checking vs Savings Accounts
Two common bank account types serve different primary purposes:
- Primarily used to pay bills and make everyday purchases conveniently.
- Funds can be accessed easily via check, debit card, ATM, and electronic payments like online bill pay.
- Usually do not earn interest.
- Used to build savings over time by depositing excess funds.
- Limited transaction capabilities – no checks and restricted electronic withdrawals.
- Earn interest on balances, though currently at very low rates.
Having both types of accounts serves complementary money management purposes. Many banks allow linking checking and savings for easy transfers.
Factors When Choosing a Bank
Consider your needs and preferences across these categories:
Location and Branch Access
Banks with local branches provide in-person service and convenient ATM access. Online banks operate digitally only.
Compare monthly maintenance fees, overdraft fees, ATM fees, etc. Some accounts waive fees based on minimum balances or other conditions.
Interest Rates on Savings
Shop for highest rates on savings accounts and CDs. Rates are generally higher at online banks.
Assess the online banking and mobile app quality for performing transactions, transfers, deposits, and account management on the go.
Some accounts require maintaining a minimum account balance to waive monthly fees.
Once you identify top contenders after narrowing the field, you can apply and make final evaluations.
Documents Needed to Open an Account
Whether applying online, in branch, or by mail, banks require certain identifying documents and information to open any new account:
- Full legal name
- Social Security number
- Date of birth
- Physical residential address
- Phone number
- Email address
- Employer and occupation details
- Government-issued ID like a driver’s license or passport
- Initial deposit amount for new account
Providing the required documentation helps the application process go smoothly.
Steps to Open an Account Online
With many secure digital application options now available, opening an account online is common. Follow these steps:
- Compare banks and pre-qualify.
- Select the account(s) you want to open.
- Start new account application on bank’s website.
- Provide your SSN, DOB, ID info, and contact details.
- Agree to terms and conditions electronically.
- Submit initial deposit amount from your existing bank account.
- Upload or email required ID documents.
- Review and electronically sign the application.
- Receive account approval and credentials by email in a few days.
The online process can allow opening an account completely digitally in about 10-15 minutes in many cases.
Initial Deposit and Funding Accounts
You will need to make a first deposit to activate your new account:
- Minimum opening deposit amounts vary, often $25 to $100.
- Deposit options include transferring from an existing bank account, mailing a check, or cash deposits in-person.
- Deposit higher initial amounts to waive monthly fees if minimum balances are required.
- Set up direct deposit of your paycheck and auto-transfers to easily fund accounts going forward.
Putting money in upfront gets your new banking relationship started off right.
Next Steps After Opening an Account
Once approved, take these actions to manage your new account:
- Activate online banking credentials to access your account digitally if applicable.
- Order debit cards and/or checks to make payments from checking accounts.
- Review and understand your account agreements and fee schedules.
- Set up online bill pay via the bank if desired.
- Designate beneficiaries for accounts with payable-on-death benefits like savings accounts.
- Follow up on any remaining documentation the bank needs, like adding authorized signers on business accounts.
Establishing these basics sets you up for smooth ongoing account usage and money management.
With the wide variety of bank account options available today, doing your research is worthwhile to find the optimal match. Comparing features, fees, and convenience factors makes selecting the right checking or savings provider for your needs easy. Following application requirements and funding accounts promptly gets your new banking relationship started off smoothly.