Table of Contents

How to Open a Bank Account Online

Online banks offer better interest rates for your savings and a variety of methods to fund your account.

Why You Can Trust CNET Money
Our mission is to help you make informed financial decisions, and we hold ourselves to strict . This post may contain links to products from our partners, which may earn us a commission. Here’s a more detailed explanation of .
Zooey Liao/CNET

You no longer have to walk into a bank to open an account. You can apply for a new bank account online in minutes. 

You’ll have to choose the right financial institution and account that fits your needs, whether it’s for everyday banking or long-term savings. The first thing to note is the account’s annual percentage yield, or APY, which determines how much of a return you’ll get on your money. You should also compare features, balance requirements and account fees at different banks. 

Doing some research ahead of time will make you better equipped to manage your money and reach your financial goals. Here’s what to look for when you open a new bank account online.

1. Choose an account

How to choose a bank or credit union

We all have different preferences when it comes to banking. You might want to open an account with a familiar credit union, or one with nearby in-person banking services. Or you could pick an online bank for convenience, better APYs and evolving banking features, like early direct deposit

Make sure to compare account perks and offers from several banks to see where you can get the best deals and savings. Consider these questions before choosing an account:

  • Can you open an account online? While most banks offer online accounts, some with physical branches require you to show up in person to open certain accounts. Be sure to check the requirements first. 
  • Are your deposits federally insured? The bank or credit union you choose should be insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Program or the National Credit Union Administration. FDIC and NCUA 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 declares bankruptcy or goes out of business. 
  • Is it an interest-earning account? The Federal Reserve has raised the federal funds rate since early 2022, which has pushed APYs for deposit accounts higher. Right now, you can earn the most interest on your deposits with high-yield savings accounts, money market accounts and certificates of deposit (CD accounts). 
  • Do you need easy access to a physical location? If access to a physical branch is important, consider a local bank, credit union or a national bank with branches in your area. If in-person customer service isn’t important to you, online-only banks often come with better perks and benefits. 
  • What are the fees and minimum balance requirements? Some banks charge monthly maintenance fees, out-of-network ATM fees or overdraft fees. Other banks have minimum balance requirements or transaction caps. Keep in mind that online-only banks tend to have fewer overhead costs and pass the savings on to you through lower fees and higher APYs.

Types of online bank accounts

Here’s an overview of different bank accounts you might be interested in opening online:

  • A checking account is great for regular deposits and withdrawals. It usually pays only modest (if any) interest on your balance, and there may be fees. These accounts usually come with checks and a debit card.
  • A high-yield savings account may offer a relatively high 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 withdrawals and earn a higher interest rate on your money. These accounts often come with higher minimum balance requirements and fees. 

2. Gather what you need for the application 

Once you’ve picked an online account type and a bank or credit union, it’s time to get the application started. Whether you’re opening an individual account, or you want to share access with a partner, parent or child with a joint account, you’ll have to gather some documentation. 

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

  • Driver’s license or another type of government-issued ID
  • Bill with your name, like a utility or phone bill
  • Physical address, email address, phone number
  • Birthdate
  • Social Security number

3. Fill out the bank application

Most online bank applications let you upload or input your documentation securely. If you’re opening a joint account, your co-applicant will probably be required to provide some or all of these details as well. Find out what your bank requires from co-applicants before you complete your application.

4. Make a deposit

You can make your first deposit into your new bank account immediately, but many banks don’t require this. If your bank does require a minimum deposit, 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: Provide a check or cash to start your account.
  • Online: Take a picture of a check to deposit it or transfer funds electronically from an existing account by providing a routing number. 

The bottom line

Opening a bank account online is fast and convenient. Finding the right bank account, however, will take more time. Start by researching which banking services and features you want so you can 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, as long as you factor in any potential fees.

FAQs

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. But some banks and credit unions do offer specific accounts and bonuses 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 mail your final check. Before closing your bank account, update your subscriptions and monthly bills with your new bill pay information to avoid late fees.

Dashia is a staff writer for CNET Money who covers all angles of personal finance, including credit cards and banking. From reviews to news coverage, she aims to help readers make more informed decisions about their money. Dashia was previously a staff writer at NextAdvisor, where she covered credit cards, taxes, banking B2B payments. She has also written about safety, home automation, technology and fintech.
Advertiser Disclosure

CNET editors independently choose every product and service we cover. Though we can’t review every available financial company or offer, we strive to make comprehensive, rigorous comparisons in order to highlight the best of them. For many of these products and services, we earn a commission. The compensation we receive may impact how products and links appear on our site.

Editorial Guidelines

Writers and editors and produce editorial content with the objective to provide accurate and unbiased information. A separate team is responsible for placing paid links and advertisements, creating a firewall between our affiliate partners and our editorial team. Our editorial team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers.

How we make money

CNET Money is an advertising-supported publisher and comparison service. We’re compensated in exchange for placement of sponsored products and services, or when you click on certain links posted on our site. Therefore, this compensation may impact where and in what order affiliate links appear within advertising units. While we strive to provide a wide range of products and services, CNET Money does not include information about every financial or credit product or service.