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Can you open a checking account online?

Open an online checking account in just 5 steps

Tetiana Lazunova via Getty Images

Gone are the days of driving to the bank to deposit a check or withdraw money. Today, digital banking is increasingly popular. In fact, a recent study released by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) found that approximately 65% of households primarily access their accounts online or through mobile apps rather than visiting a branch or calling a bank.

You may consider opening a new checking account if you don’t have a bank account offering digital or mobile features. However, can you open a checking account online? With many banks and credit unions, opening a checking account online is possible, and it’s an easy process.

Find the best checking account rates
Find the best checking account rates

Reasons why online checking accounts are popular

A traditional brick-and-mortar bank was the most common tool for handling basic transactions like deposits or withdrawals for years. But with more digital and mobile options available, online checking accounts are more popular for the following reasons:

You can handle banking tasks from your couch

In the past, getting to the bank during its business hours could be challenging, causing other inconveniences. For example, if you needed to cash a check and couldn’t get to the bank before it closed, you couldn’t access the money until the bank opened the next day.

With online checking accounts, there’s no need to leave your house; you can deposit checks and transfer money from your couch while bingeing your favorite show.

Online checking accounts often have lower fees

Banks that only offer accounts online have much lower overhead costs than traditional institutions. Because they don’t operate brick-and-mortar branches, their expenses are lower. As a result, they pass those savings on to customers through low or no fees, so you’re more likely to find a free online checking account from a digital bank than a traditional one.

They make it easy to manage and transfer money

Banks and credit unions focusing on online and mobile access easily sync with online bill pay platforms and peer-to-peer payment platforms like Zelle or Venmo, so you can pay your landlord or repay a friend for concert tickets.

Online banks typically offer additional features, like budgeting tools and automatic transfers, so you can track your spending and grow your savings.

Can you open a checking account online?

Many banks and credit unions allow you to open checking accounts online, so visiting a branch in person is unnecessary.

However, you do have to fill out an application. Banks are required by law to have a customer identification program when creating new accounts. At a minimum, banks must require the following information:

  • Customer’s name

  • Date of birth

  • Address

  • A qualifying identification number (For US citizens, the identification number is usually the customer’s Social Security number. But customers can also use taxpayer-identification numbers or passport numbers.)

Some banks or credit unions may require additional information or documentation, such as a copy of your driver’s license or other government-issued ID.

How to open an online checking account

Opening a checking account online is simple; the process normally takes just a few minutes. You can open a new checking account by following these steps:

1. Find a bank or credit union

There are over 10,000 banks and credit unions in the US, so choosing one may be overwhelming. But there are a few factors to consider that can help narrow down your options:

  • Type of bank: When it comes to online banking, banks and credit unions can be divided into two main categories:

    • Digital Bank: A digital bank is usually a division of a larger institution that has brick-and-mortar locations. Digital bank accounts may have lower fees, and they make it easy to handle basic banking tasks online or through a mobile app. A digital bank tends to be best for someone that wants to handle the majority of their banking online but wants the option of visiting a branch if they need help.

    • Neobank: A neobank exists solely online; there are no physical locations. Because they have lower overhead costs, they usually have lower fees and better rates than other institutions. For example, you can usually find high-yield savings accounts and free online checking accounts from neobanks.

  • Insurance: When looking for a bank, make sure whatever institution you choose is backed by the FDIC or the National Credit Union Administration. This coverage insures your deposits up to $250,000, protecting your money.

  • Access: Even if you do the majority of your banking online, there may be times when you need to take out or deposit cash. If that’s the case, you need to make sure you have access to ATMs for withdrawals or deposits near you. You can use a bank’s locator tool to find out if there are ATMs in your area.

2. Select the right checking account

Once you’ve found a bank or credit union, the next step is to choose a checking account. Banks typically have several options with different features. When comparing accounts, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there a monthly fee? Some banks charge monthly account fees, such as $10 to $25 per month. But you can find free online checking accounts from both digital and neobanks.

  • If there’s a fee, can it be waived? Some banks will waive the monthly fees if you meet certain requirements, such as setting up direct deposit or maintaining a specific balance, such as $2,500.

  • Does the account charge overdraft fees? If you cash a check or pay a bill for more than your bank account balance, some banks will charge you an overdraft fee for every transaction. The fee is expensive, typically around $35. But with an online bank, you can find checking accounts without overdraft fees.

  • Does it charge ATM fees: Some institutions charge additional fees if you use an out-of-network ATM. If that fee applies, make sure you have an in-network ATM near you.

  • Are checks free? With some accounts, free checks are included. But with others, you may have to order them yourself.

  • Are there any checking account bonus offers? Many online banks have special bonus offers to attract new customers. If you meet the bank’s criteria, such as opening a new account and depositing at least $1,000, you may qualify for a valuable cash bonus.

3. Gather the required documentation

As mentioned above, banks are legally required to verify customers’ identity. Though you can open a checking account online, you’ll still need to provide details about yourself.

With some banks, you’ll just have to provide your name, date of birth, address, and Social Security number or taxpayer identification number. But others may require you to provide a copy of your driver’s license, passport, Social Security card, or birth certificate.

Additionally, you’ll need to have money available to open the account. Minimum deposit amounts vary, but they typically range between $25 and $100.

4. Follow the application process

Now that you know what account you want and have the necessary documentation on hand, you can move forward with the application process. The bank’s website will usually have an “Open a new account” button, and its platform will guide you through the necessary steps. Make sure you enter all of your information — including your legal name, address, and Social Security number — correctly to avoid an application denial.

When reviewing your application, the bank will view your deposit account report from a banking reporting agency like ChexSystems. These agencies maintain reports of your banking activity, including whether you have accounts with unpaid negative balances or bounced checks, and banks will use that information to determine whether to approve your application.

Tip: You can request a copy of your consumer disclosure report from ChexSystems online.

5. Set up online banking

If your application is approved, you can set up your new online checking account. Here are some important steps to take:

  • Update your automatic payments: Review your old account’s statements and see what recurring payments you have. Set up automatic payments for those bills on the new checking account, and don’t close the old account until the new account’s payment settings are complete.

  • Contact your employer: Reach out to your employer’s human resources or payroll department to update your direct deposit information to your new account.

  • Order checks: If you occasionally have to write checks, order checks with your new account and routing numbers either through your bank or a check printing service like Checks in the Mail or CheckAdvantage.

  • Set up security alerts: Many online banks allow you to set up security alerts online to protect your account. For example, you can opt to receive notifications via text or email if fraudulent activity is detected or if a withdrawal over a specific amount is initiated.

Can you open a checking account online? Absolutely! And by choosing a bank that’s backed by the FDIC or NCUA, you’ll have the same security as what you’d have with a brick-and-mortar location but potentially without the monthly account fees and overdraft fees.