How to Open an Online Bank Account

Nadav Shemer
online bank
Whether it’s grocery shopping, getting a mortgage, or managing your money—doing things online is more convenient. Most major banks let you do some things with online banking or even mobile banking, but they generally still require you to turn up in person to open an account.

Online banks let you do everything online, including opening a new account. With a good online bank, it’s usually possible to have an account open in minutes. Every online bank is different, of course, but the good ones don’t put any unnecessary barriers in your way.

The following is a step-by-step guide to opening an online bank account.

Step #1. Compare Online Banks

Before opening an online bank account, decide which bank. Some online banks offer checking accounts, some offer savings products, and some offer both. Many online banks offer access to personal loans, home loans, and other lending products. The best online banks have a mobile app, enabling you to do all your banking from your smartphone. Read our article on “How to Choose the Right Online Bank” to find out the top 8 things to compare. See the table at the bottom of this article for a comparison of the best online banks.

Step #2. Choose Account Type

On the website of your chosen online bank, you’ll find sign-up options for each account type. Choose your preferred account type and follow the prompts to the online registration form.

Step #3. Fill Out the Application

Filling out an application form to an online bank is generally quick and easy. You’ll be required to enter your name, home address, phone number, and email address. Usually, to open an account with an American online bank, you must be a US citizen or resident alien, and you must be at least 18 years old. In order to verify that you are who you say you are, your bank will ask you to upload a valid driver’s license or state ID and your Social Security number. It may also ask for details about your employment, such as occupation, employer name, and level of income. You might want to have your phone with you in case the process involves typing in a verification code.

Step #4. Verify That Your Information is Correct

Before hitting the submit button, look over the form to make sure you entered everything correctly. Any mistakes could delay your application, so double check to see that your name, address, and contact details are all written correctly. 

Step #5. Wait a Few Seconds

After submitting your application, it can take a few seconds to get approved. Be patient and don’t refresh the screen as this could result in the same information being submitted twice, or not at all. If you find yourself waiting more than a couple of minutes without a result: first, check your internet connection to make sure there are no issues at your end; then, contact customer support by live chat or phone. Your bank may run a soft credit check before approving you. If the bank rejects your application, it may ask you to provide additional documentation or to go to a physical branch (if the bank has one).

Step #6. Make a First Deposit

Some online banks require a minimum deposit as a condition of joining, while others don’t require one at all. If there is a minimum deposit, you won’t get full access to your new online bank account without first depositing these funds. If you’re opening a savings account, you obviously won’t start earning interest until you deposit money in the account. To avoid delays, have your credit card or debit card with you or be ready to transfer money in from an existing bank account. Your new bank may ask for your external bank name, routing number, and account number for verification. Depending how you make the first deposit, it can take a few days for the funds to arrive in your new account.

Comparison of Top Online Banks

Online Bank
Top Highlight
New Customer Offer
Time to Open Account
SoFi Money
Includes member rate discounts on SoFi mortgages, mortgage refinancing, personal loans, student loans, student loan refinancing, and medical/dental student loans.

Open a new account with no monthly fees
1 minute
NBKC
Offers choice between checking account, savings account, or combination of both—with the ability to move money freely between the accounts.
Open an account with just a $5 deposit
5 minutes
NASB
Offers numerous member benefits, including deals from partnering retailers, cell phone protection, identity theft insurance, 24/7 roadside assistance, and health savings card.

Get partner discounts instantly by downloading free BaZing mobile app
5-10 minutes
Marcus
Has a wide selection of high-yield savings products and CDs, with interest rates of up to 3.05% and no fees.
Open a savings account with no minimum deposit
5-10 minutes
Barclays
The American arm of this global banking giant offers zero-fee savings accounts and CDs, with annual interest of up to 3.05% for locking your money in a 60-month CD.
New account comes with free tools to help you save
5-10 minutes
Discover
Has possibly the most diverse range of accounts in online banking, with selection of checking, savings, CD, and IRA options.
1% cashback on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month
5-10 minutes
AMEX
Customers can link their American Express Personal Savings account to up to 3 external bank accounts and set up recurring deposits.
Free savings calculator forecasts how much you will earn
10 minutes

Step #7. Congratulations on Opening Your New Account

Opening a bank account online is quicker and easier than opening one the old way. In days gone by, you would have actually had to go to a physical bank branch to open a bank account. You would have waited in line, answered dozens of questions, and walked away with a stack of paperwork. With online banks, you get an account without the waiting times and without the paperwork.

Nadav Shemer
Nadav Shemer specializes in business, tech, and energy, with a background in financial journalism, hi-tech and startups. He enjoys writing about the latest innovations in financial services and products.