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How to Open a Bank Account Online

Opening a new account only takes a few minutes, but take your time finding the right one.

Zooey Liao / CNET

You can open a new online bank account in a matter of minutes -- but it all starts with choosing the right bank and account. 

With recent bank failures in the news, it’s even more important to find a federally insured bank to protect your funds in case your bank closes. You may also want to compare accounts that earn interest, particularly as rates have started to rise again after the most recent Federal Reserve rate hike

With so many options at your fingertips, choosing the right bank and account type can feel overwhelming. But the best choice for you can come with services and features to help you manage your money and reach your financial goals. Here’s what to look for when deciding where to store your money and how to open your new bank account online.

How to choose a bank or credit union

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to which type of bank is best. You may choose to open an account with a credit union you’re already familiar with, or so you’ll have nearby in-person banking services. Or you may choose an online bank for convenience, better APYs and evolving banking features, like early direct deposit

No matter if you decide to go with a bank or a credit union, here are some questions to consider when deciding where to open an account:

Can you open an account online? If you want to sign up online, make sure the bank offers this option for the account you’re interested in. While most banks offer online accounts, some might require you to show up in person to open certain accounts. Be sure to check the requirements before settling on an account. 

Are your deposits federally insured? Ensure the bank you choose is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Program or FDIC. FDIC insurance protects your deposits up to $250,000 per person, per bank, for each account category. That means your deposits are protected if your bank goes out of business. Money you put in a credit union is protected by the National Credit Union Administration or NCUA, which also insures your deposits for up to $250,000. 

Given the recent bank failures, choosing an FDIC or NCUA-insured financial institution is the best way to make sure your money is protected in case a bank fails. Most banks are insured, but in the rare case you choose one that isn’t, you may not get your money back if the bank fails or closes.

Is it an interest-earning account? The Federal Reserve has steadily raised the federal funds rate since early 2022. And even though APYs for deposit accounts aren’t directly tied to the Fed’s decisions, banks tend to move in lockstep. Right now, you can earn interest on your deposits with some savings and checking accounts, along with money market accounts and CDs. 

High-yield savings accounts typically offer higher APYs than traditional savings accounts. Checking accounts rarely pay interest on balances; if they do, the APY is often much lower than savings accounts. Money market accounts are the middleman between these two accounts -- you’ll earn interest, but not as much as a high-yield savings account. 

Do you need easy access to a physical location? If access to a physical branch or in-person customer service is important, you may consider a local bank, credit union or a national bank with branches in your area. If you don’t care about physical proximity, an online-only bank may suit your needs just fine -- and offer higher interest rates, lower fees or other benefits. 

What are the fees and minimum balance requirements? Some banks charge a regular monthly maintenance fee, but you may be able to waive it if you meet certain requirements. However, you still may be charged other fees -- such as ATM or overdraft fees. 

Plenty of banks don’t charge maintenance fees and waive other common fees like ATM or overdraft fees. Online banks, in particular, tend to have fewer overhead costs and pass the savings on to you through fewer fees and better APYs on deposit accounts. 

Types of online bank accounts

If this is your first bank account, you might want to explore opening a checking or savings account. You may also want to check out a money market account, which offers a mix of checking and savings features. Here’s an overview of how each account type works:

  • A checking account accommodates deposits and withdrawals. It usually pays only modest (if any) interest on your balance, and there may be fees. These accounts often come with a checkbook and debit card.
  • A high-yield savings account may offer a relatively high annual percentage yield, or APY, especially compared to a regular savings account at a traditional banking institution. Online banks tend to offer more competitive APYs. 
  • A money market account combines elements of a traditional checking account and a high-yield savings account, allowing you to make regular withdrawals and earn a higher interest rate on your money. These accounts may have higher minimum balance requirements and fees. 

You can sign up for an individual account. If you want to share access with a partner, parent or child, many banks offer joint accounts.

It’s critical that your financial institution is insured by either the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or National Credit Union Administration. These groups insure your deposits up to $250,000 in case the bank or credit union declares bankruptcy or closes. Make sure to compare account perks and offers from several banks to see where you can get the best deals and savings.

Information required for a bank account application

Once you’ve picked an account type and a bank or credit union, it’s time to open an account. Providing personal details is necessary for opening an account. It proves that you are who you say you are. Without proper documentation, opening an online bank account may be difficult. 

Here are some of the personal details you’ll likely need to provide: 

  • Driver’s license or another type of government-issued ID
  • A bill with your name on it, like a utility or phone bill 
  • Your physical address
  • Your birth date
  • Social Security number or Tax Identification number
  • Contact information -- such as an email address and phone number.

Most online bank applications will let you upload your documentation securely. Sometimes you can set up a virtual folder with all your documents, though you may need to upload the documents individually. 

If you’re opening a joint account, your co-applicant will be required to provide these details, too -- though perhaps not all of them, especially if the other person is a minor. Find out what your bank requires from co-applicants before you complete your application.

How to fund your account

You can make your first deposit into your new bank account when you open it, but many banks don’t require this. If your bank does require a minimum deposit, be sure to find out how much so you can have the amount handy.

You can fund your account in a few ways, depending on what the bank allows:

  • In person: You can provide a check or cash to start your account.
  • Online: You can usually take a picture of a check to deposit it or transfer funds from an existing account. 

If you want to open an account at an online bank but only have cash to deposit, you may have to first open an account with a brick-and-mortar bank where you can deposit your physical cash. You’ll then be able to transfer your money to an online-only institution. However, some online banks, like SoFi, make depositing cash easy but they may charge a fee.

The bottom line

Opening a bank account online is fast and convenient. Finding the right bank account, however, may take more time. Start by researching which banking services and features you want to help you narrow down your search. After that, the process for opening a bank account online or in person is relatively simple. 


And remember that changing banks doesn’t affect your credit score. You can change banks or accounts whenever you’re ready. Just keep any fees in mind.


Most banks offer online accounts -- whether the bank has physical branches or only operates online. That includes national banks, small community banks, credit unions and online-only institutions. Note that some smaller institutions, such as community banks or credit unions, may not offer an experience that’s as intuitive and well-designed as larger banks.

If you open an account at an online-only bank, there’s likely no branch location to visit. In most cases you don’t need to visit a physical branch to open an account, even if your bank has a physical location. However, some banks and credit unions do offer specific accounts and bonuses only to customers who sign up at a physical location. Additionally, while online banks tout higher savings rates, larger banks with physical branches may be more appealing, especially if you want in-person customer service.

To close an old bank account, call or visit your bank and speak to someone who can assist you with your request. Decide if you want to cash out the money or use it until the account balance is zero. If you close your account online or over the phone, the bank may ask you for an address to which your final check can be mailed. Before closing your bank account, update your subscriptions and monthly bills with your new bill pay information to avoid late fees.

Dori Zinn loves helping people learn and understand money. She's been covering personal finance for a decade and her writing has appeared in Wirecutter, Credit Karma, Huffington Post and more.
Dashia writes for CNET. In the past, she wrote for several industries, including FinTech, home security, automation, and more. She loves baking bundt cakes and her favorite flavor is white chocolate raspberry.