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How to Open a Checking Account Online in 5 Steps

Knowing how to open a checking account online can give you the push to join a new bank or credit union. The application process can take just a few minutes if there are no hitches. And the benefits can be many: lower or fewer fees, new services and more perks. Here’s how to get started.

1. Choose the checking account

Fees, features and ways to access your money can vary by checking account. Whether you open an account with an online-only bank or with a brick-and-mortar bank via its digital platform, compare costs and features ahead of time.

Watch out for monthly fees, overdraft fees and ATM fees. Find a checking account that either has no monthly fees or waives them with a minimum balance or other requirement. If your account balance tends to be low, be familiar with any overdraft fees, which can be more than $30 at some banks. Lastly, if you rely on getting cash out from your account, confirm that the bank provides free access to a convenient ATM network.

Some checking account features are standard, such as bill pay, direct deposit and ATM access. Some newer checking features include early direct deposit, fast transfers through Zelle, and fee-free overdraft coverage. Extra perks can include no foreign transaction or ATM fees on debit cards, budgeting tools and even cash-back rewards. Despite being called checking accounts, paper checks (and check writing) are not a guaranteed feature, so confirm they’re available if you need them.

In addition, while most banks have federally insured accounts through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., it doesn’t hurt to double-check the bank website for FDIC insurance. Credit unions have equivalent insurance through the National Credit Union Administration. Some online accounts are offered by nonbank tech companies, known as neobanks, which often partner with banks to offer FDIC-insured accounts.

2. Gather your personal information

You’ll generally need some documentation to open a checking account online, and for joint accounts, you’ll need the second person’s information too. Details can include:

  • Social Security number or, for noncitizens, a different identification number.

  • Government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license or passport.

  • Proof of address, such as through a utility bill or bank account statement. If your current address is on your primary ID, that may count.

  • Routing and account numbers to another bank account (or debit card) you own. To open an account online, you generally need to be able to fund it via online transfer from an external bank account. (If you’ve never had a bank account, here’s our guide to getting started.)

3. Fill out and submit the application

Applying to a new bank requires you to provide personal information. Using a secure internet connection, provide the details asked for on the application, which can include:

  • Contact information, such as phone number and email address.

  • Information from the documents you previously gathered in Step 2, such as your ID and external bank account and routing numbers.

You might also need to sign a document, such as a signature card, as a way to confirm that you’re the account owner.

If a bank can’t confirm your identity or needs additional information, you may need to send documentation beyond the application, such as via email. Or, in the case of brick-and-mortar banks, you may have to visit a branch.

Banks typically require a minimum opening deposit, such as $25 or $100, though some banks have no minimum. A minimum opening deposit isn’t the same thing as a minimum balance requirement, which is usually the amount you need to keep in a bank account to avoid a monthly fee, if applicable. Funding the account tends to involve an online transfer, though other ways may be allowed, such as by check.

Regardless of whether there’s a minimum opening requirement, you need to fund the account fairly soon after opening, such as within a month or two, to prevent the account from being closed.

5. Finish setting up the account

Unlike when you open a savings account or a CD, a checking account has more moving parts to set up. Here’s a quick list from A to Z:

  • Automatic bill payments: Don’t forget to transition any automatic bill payments and subscriptions from your previous checking account, if applicable. Learn more about online bill pay.

  • Automatic transfers: To send money between your accounts at different banks, you can link them. Learn more about external bank transfers.

  • Checks: Request to have the bank mail a checkbook, if available, and if you need one.

  • Debit card: You’ll have to wait for your debit card to be mailed, which can occur within one or two weeks of the account opening.

  • Direct deposits: If you receive income via direct deposit, you’ll need to set that up.

  • Mobile app: Install the bank’s app, if you haven’t already, and save your login details in a safe place. Some banks let you sign in with a scan of your fingerprint or face.

  • Overdraft settings: Think hard about what services are available — and what they cost — for covering transactions that would otherwise lead to a negative account balance.

  • Transaction alerts: These text or email notifications are optional, but they can help you spot when your checking balance is low or an unauthorized debit card purchase goes through.

  • Zelle: The fast and typically free money transfer service Zelle is integrated into many bank apps. If your bank partners with Zelle, you can link your email or phone number to use Zelle for sending money online to friends or family within minutes. If not, you can typically link your checking account or debit card to other peer-to-peer apps for a similar service.

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