In a crowded world, the opportunity to do things online is invaluable. Fortunately, most banking tasks can be done online – in many cases even by opening an account. This means you don’t have to travel to the branch or print and sign paper forms. Everything is done digitally, and when you open an account you can send funds and pay bills online. Can you open a checking account online?
What you need to open an account
To open a bank account online, be prepared to provide personal information so that the bank can verify your identity. You may also need to organize electronic payments to a new online bank account. Collect the following items before starting the process:
- Personal data: You must tell the bank who you are and provide personal data about yourself. So get ready for: your social security number, your birthdate;
- All government issued identification numbers (driving license, passport, US military ID, etc.), With date of issue and expiration date;
- Contact information: banks need your home address, telephone number and email address. Although you operate in a virtual world, federal law requires you to provide a physical address – where you actually live – but you can also provide a post office box or equivalent as your postal address;
- Financing information: Banks often require a first deposit to open an account; usually between 25 and 100 USD. To do this, you can use a credit or debit card. Alternatively, you can enter routing and account numbers to create a link to another bank account.
Do you want a checking or savings account?
Before starting the application, you need to make two key decisions:
- Single or joint account? You are the only owner with one account. A shared account is an account that you co-own with another person, usually a family member or significant other person.
- Checking, saving or other? Define the main purpose of this new account. If you need money for regular expenses, consider opening a checking account and make sure it doesn’t charge too much (or that you can release it). If the money goes to savings, make sure your account has a good interest rate. (For more information on choosing check versus savings, read this article.)
Complete the application
Complete the online application using the information collected. You may need to scan or upload a photo of some items, such as your driving license.
When finished, click “submit”. You will probably receive an email or a text message confirming receipt of the notification and informing you of the next steps within a few minutes. One of the next steps may be the need to have a signature card, documents stored by banks and used to verify the signature on checks and other transactions. If so, the bank will probably send you a card by mail, which you (and the co-owner of the account, if applicable) will sign and return. Most internet banks do not have this requirement and instead accept an electronic (digital) signature. If quick account opening is a priority, make sure the bank you choose does not have this requirement.
FDIC regulation and insurance
Regulation is one area where both types of checking accounts are similar. Supervision over traditional online-only banks and cash registers rests with the Office of the Currency Controller (OCC), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Reserve System (FRS), the National Credit Union Administration and state regulatory authorities in all 50 states. Traditional bank accounts only available online are insured in the FDIC system, but it is up to you to verify the bank status in the FDIC system.