How to Open an Online Bank Account

It's simple, straightforward and something you can do from anywhere.

Money around a piggy bank
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Opening up a bank account is pretty simple. You don't need a lot of money. It doesn't take much time. And you don't actually have to go to a bank. In fact, you can open up an online bank account while sitting on your couch. Right now. If you're interested in opening an online bank account, here's what you need to know.

Types of online bank accounts

If this is your first bank account, you might want to explore opening a checking account or a savings account -- or both. 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 of those work:

  • 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, giving you the ability to make regular withdrawals and earn a higher rate of interest on your money. These accounts may have higher minimum balance requirements and fees. 

Most banks will let you sign up for an individual account or a joint account with a partner or parent, child or friend. 

It's critically important 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 the proper documentation, it may be difficult to open an online bank account. 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

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.

Fund your account 

Providing an initial deposit is almost always required when opening a new account. The easiest way to do this is through an existing account, though some institutions may let you transmit funds by check or money order. Of course, you can always visit a local branch, if the bank has one.

Note that your bank might require a minimum opening deposit. You may also be required to maintain a minimum balance or pay a monthly fee. Read all of the requirements before you open your account, and make sure your initial deposit clears before you set up autopay for bills, direct deposit or anything else.

What banks offer online accounts

Most banks offer online accounts, whether they have physical branches or are online-only. Most national banks, small community banks, credit unions and online-only institutions will let you set up an account online. That noted, 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. 

Can I open an account without visiting a branch location?

If you open an account at an online-only bank, there's likely no branch location to visit. In most cases, even with banks that do have physical locations, you won't be required to visit one to open an account. Still, larger banks with physical branches may be more appealing, especially if you have a significant customer service issue. 

Can I open a Chase bank account online? Can I open a Bank of America account online?

You can open a Chase bank account in person or online. Visit the Chase website to complete an application. Make sure you read the requirements carefully and submit all of the required documents to open an account. 

You can also open a Bank of America account online, along with accounts from other major banks, such as Wells Fargo, PNC and others. Your local community bank or credit union may also offer online options. Most banks require customers to be at least 18 years of age or older; opening an account for a minor will often require an adult to be present or involved.