Young woman opening a bank account.

How To Open A Bank Account In 5 Simple Steps

Dan Miller3-Minute Read
March 03, 2021

Opening a bank account is an important step to establishing a solid financial future. If you’re wondering how to open a bank account, the good news is that following these simple steps makes it a breeze. Whether you're looking at opening a checking account or a savings account, following our guide will have you set up in no time.

1. Choose A Bank Or Credit Union

The first thing that you'll want to do when opening a new bank account is choose a bank or credit union. Credit unions and banks have some important differences, so it's good to be aware of them before choosing. Here are a few things you'll want to keep in mind when deciding on a bank or credit union for your new account:

 

  • Fees: Many checking or savings accounts come with different fees, such as overdraft fees. In many cases, the fees are waived if you maintain a certain monthly balance or level of activity.
  • Digital access: Take a look at the website or mobile app for the bank or credit union. Does it offer easy access to your account, mobile deposit or other important features?
  • Location: Many banks allow you to do everything you need online or through the mobile app, but location still plays an important part in choosing a bank or credit union. Find out where the ATMs are or what branch locations are closest to you.
  • Minimum balance: Many checking or savings accounts come with a minimum balance that you'll need to maintain in order to keep the account open or fee-free.
  • Account opening bonus: Many banks offer a bonus for opening a new account – reviewing our list of the best checking account bonuses and promotions can give you an idea of a bank to choose.

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2. Decide What Kind Of Account To Open

There are a variety of different types of accounts that you can open. Checking accounts and savings accounts are the most common, but there are other options, like money market accounts. With a certificate of deposit (CD), you will typically get a higher interest rate but you also won't be able to access your money for a specified period of time in order to earn those higher rates. There are also different types of savings accounts, including high-yield savings accounts and high-interest savings accounts.

3. Fill Out An Application

Traditionally, bank accounts had to be opened in person, but now many new can be opened completely online. Due to various laws, banks are required to collect personal information and financial history from anyone who opens a new account.

Provide Personal Information

A variety of personal information is required to open a new bank account. Being prepared with this information will help the account opening process go more smoothly:

 

  • One or two forms of identification, such as a driver's license, Social Security card or passport
  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • Social Security number

Provide Financial History

Banks will also look at some of your financial history prior to opening a new account. Depending on the type of account that you're opening, the bank may pull your credit report. Unlike when you open a new credit card, the bank will usually do a soft credit pull instead of a hard credit pull.

4. Consent And Sign

The next step in opening a new checking or savings account is to review and consent to the terms of the new account. If you're opening the account in person at the bank branch, you’ll sign these documents physically. If you’re opening the account online, the signatures will be done electronically. Keep in mind that depending on the situation, if you open the account online, you still may be required to print and mail some information back to the bank.

5. Make An Initial Deposit

Many banks require an initial deposit in order to open a new account. There are a variety of different ways that you can make this initial deposit:

 

  • Cash
  • Check or money order
  • Direct deposit from your employer
  • Electronic transfer
  • Some banks permit funding a new account with a credit card, though this is usually limited to a specific amount.

 

There may also be additional forms if you want to receive a debit card that will allow you easier access to your money. Then, once you have your new account and routing numbers, you’ll be able to do things like set up or change paycheck direct deposit information, or set up autopay for bills.

The Bottom Line On Opening A Bank Account

Opening a bank account is an important step to learning more about personal finances. Hopefully these simple steps will help you learn how to open a bank account and put yourself well on the path to a successful financial future.

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Dan Miller

Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free/cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids.