Depositing your funds in a bank is a great way to secure your money and develop your financial discipline. Banks offer interest-bearing accounts, plus they’re a safer place to leave your money than storing it in a box under the bed.
But if it's your first time using a bank, it's only natural that you might be confused about where to start.
Here’s how to open a bank account:
- Choose your preferred bank.
- Determine which type of bank account to open.
- Complete the account application.
- Make an initial deposit.
If you’re in need of a bank account but not sure how to begin, this article offers an in-depth discussion on the steps involved in opening a bank account.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to open an account, including how to choose a bank and what type of account to open.
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1. Choose Your Preferred Bank
All banks are different, so you should do your research before committing to one.
Although this step might appear fairly straightforward, choosing haphazardly can impact your overall satisfaction. For example, some banks have account usage restrictions and operational fees that can dent your savings over time.
Others have account minimums and charge fees when your account goes below that minimum.
There are many other differences as well, for example, some banks run a promotion offering to give you a certain sum of money after a certain period of time if you open a savings account or a checking account with direct deposit.
Banks are competing for your business, so it is worthwhile to do some serious investigating before making your decision.
Once you've determined the bank with the friendliest rates and policies, you can either visit a physical location, or begin the process online.
Today there are some banks that are only available online, and they typically have lower fees and more incentives, but either way, you should visit either the physical location or the online bank’s website to familiarize yourself with how the bank operates.
However, for online account opening, you'll need to be extra careful to ensure you register on an actual website and not an imposter site. You'll also need to have the documents we mentioned earlier on standby to successfully open an account online.
2. Determine Which Type of Bank Account to Open
Besides determining the ideal bank for you, you will also need to determine which type of account you need.
Below is a brief explanation of the main types of bank accounts you can open.
Checking accounts are ideal for day-to-day spending. This type of account is mainly used to deposit cash intended to cover expenses using a debit card or by writing a check.
While you can earn interest through a checking account, its primary purpose is for paying bills. And since a checking account is better suited for recurrent expenditures, it's not the ideal option if you want to earn interest on savings.
Savings accounts are ideal for first-timers, especially since it allows you to earn interest on your savings while keeping the funds readily available.
With savings accounts, however, you'll need to contend with the Federal Reserve Board Regulation D, which limits the number of withdrawals you can make per month.
The whole idea of a savings account is to earn interest on money saved while still being able to access the cash should a need arise. Therefore, these accounts are really good to use as emergency fund accounts.
Money Market Accounts
Money market accounts are interest-bearing accounts that come with limited check writing and debit card privileges. And although money market accounts offer higher interest rates compared to typical savings accounts, you'll have to contend with some federal restrictions.
You'll need to ensure your money market account balance remains above the stipulated minimum to avoid monthly fines. Additionally, these types of accounts also have limited transactions, meaning you must comply with the bank's terms and conditions to avoid penalties.
Certificate of Deposit
A certificate of deposit, or CD, is an excellent option if you have a large chunk of cash that has no immediate use. A CD will give you the best interest rates compared to the other types of accounts as you'll be leaving the money with the bank for extended periods.
Disclaimer, this account is only suitable if you don't plan to use your lump sum of cash for anywhere from six months to 10 years because you won't be able to make any withdrawals until the fixed period expires without penalties and fees.
3. Complete the Account Application
Once you've determined the type of account that meets your goals, you must complete an account application. All banks require applicants to provide their sensitive details in order to comply with federal regulations.
If you are using a brick and mortar bank location, you will still likely complete the application online, but there will be a bank representative there to assist you.
If you are looking to create a bank account online, you'll begin on the bank’s website. Normally the landing page provides the types of accounts, sometimes called products, that the bank offers.
Simply click on the account you want to open.
Online bank account registration tends to vary depending on the website layout of each bank. But the process is usually straightforward.
Ensure you have all the required documentation in .pdf format (passport, driver's license) because you need these to prove your identity.
Some online banks have e-signature capabilities, but others require paper signatures, so be prepared to print, sign and mail the registration document to the bank for your account to be officially opened and activated.
These same documents are required for brick and mortar locations. However, one of the benefits of going to the bank to open an account is that the representatives will make the necessary copies and put them on file for you while you’re there.
4. Make an Initial Deposit
After your application has been verified and cleared, you will need to make the initial minimum deposit to activate your account. You can use cash or a check from another bank to make your deposit.
Once it is made, most often, a portion of the money is available for immediate withdrawal, should you need it.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Bank
Perhaps the most important part of opening a bank account is choosing the actual bank. There are several factors that go into choosing a bank which need to be carefully considered.
Most banks charge maintenance fees, overdraft charges, penalties for not meeting the minimum balance, ATM fees, and hard copy statement fees, among a host of other fees.
Banking fees tend to differ from bank to bank, so research prior to opening an account is crucial.
With everything going digital, you should strive to open an account with a bank boasting a solid online presence. Consider banks that offer robust online banking services and come with stable apps that are easy to use.
Although not mandatory, online banking can help smoothen the banking process and save you both time and energy through easy access to basic services.
Location is a crucial consideration to make, especially if you're relatively new to banking. Opening an account in an easily accessible bank means you can visit the brick-and-mortar branch for consultation and any inquiries you might have.
You should also consider opening an account with a bank that has several ATMs within your home or work location for added convenience.
Opening an account with a bank offering several services will allow you to make the most of your account and tap into new opportunities. Therefore, ask if your preferred bank offers business loans, investment services, and other services like auto loans.
Banks do not offer the best interest rates for large sums of money. Still, if you're planning to open a savings account, a CD, or a money market account, then it's best to check on a bank's interest rates and compare them with the industry average.
Try as much as possible to choose a bank that consistently maintains friendly interest rates.
Minimum Balance Requirements
Ensure you choose a bank with favorable terms, particularly minimum balance requirements.Be aware that some accounts require owners to maintain relatively high minimum balances, which increases the chances of incurring fines.
Therefore, check first to confirm if the minimum balance is something you can handle comfortably.
Whether you're new or already well experienced in banking, you'll eventually need a banker's assistance or clarification about an underlying issue at some point. Due to this, you should always consider banks with proven track records of exemplary customer service.
Pick a bank that prioritizes the needs of its clients and responds promptly to client queries and complaints.
Opening a bank account is a fairly straightforward process that takes minutes to complete. Online applications usually take no more than 20 minutes, and it often doesn’t take much longer when visiting physical banks once you sit down with an account manager.
Either way, opening a new bank account should only take a couple of minutes if you have all the requirements on standby.
The minimum amount of money required to make deposits varies depending on banks and the type of account you want to open. Some banks allow members to open accounts with small deposits, others require $250 or more.
Savings accounts and money market accounts usually have larger minimum balances. But to be on the safe side, it’s advisable to check rates online or inquire with a banking officer.
An underage person can open a bank account as long as a legal guardian or parent accompanies them. When opening a bank account, the parent will act as a legally recognized account co-signer and sign the legal documents on behalf of the underage child.
Opening a joint account is no different from setting up individual savings accounts. The only difference is you'll need to provide the required details of each member. This means all members must provide their social security numbers, government issued IDs, current addresses, and date of birth.
Joint accounts can also be opened online and won't take much of your time if you have all the mentioned documents in their recommended upload formats.
Withdrawing from a CD before the maturity date will lead to penalties and fees, as this is a stipulation of such accounts. Although, each bank is different, so it’s important to check with your bank for the specific penalty amount.
Savings accounts are the best type of account to open to earn interest and still have access to your cash. CDs are best for long-term saving, especially for larger deposit amounts.
Money market accounts allow you to earn higher interest, and checking accounts work best for daily expenditures.
The best type of account for you to open largely depends on your unique goals, as all accounts come with their own pros and cons. Therefore, the trick to getting a good product is opening an account that suits your unique needs and preferences.
Opening a bank account is a fairly straightforward process, as long as you have the required items.
However, before you start the account opening process, be sure to do your homework and compare the different types of banks based on things such as the services they offer, their terms and interest rates, and balance requirements.
Choosing a bank with transparent pricing plans and a responsive customer support team will allow you to choose the best products that suit your unique financial needs.
A pioneer in digital banking, Axos Bank offers a comprehensive range of innovative financial products and services with the highest level of security.
I’m Donny. I’m a world traveler, investor, entrepreneur, and online marketing aficionado who has a big appetite to compete and disrupt big markets. I thrive on being able to create things that impact change, difficult challenges, and being able to add value in negative situations.