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How to Open a Bank Account

Written by Alani Asis | Edited by Ali Cybulski | Published on 5/10/2024


A bank account, or deposit account, is important to keep your money safe. It also offers the opportunity to earn interest on your balance.

If you’re wondering how to open an account at a bank or credit union, the process is generally simple and straightforward.

Whether you’re opening a personal checking account, savings account or another type of account, you’ll need to provide some documentation and complete an application. This can be done online or in person, depending on the bank.

On this page:

What do you need to open a bank account?

The first step in opening a bank account is understanding the types of documentation you will need. Whether you get an account at a branch or online, you can expedite the process by having your paperwork and information ready.

Typical bank requirements can include:

  • A valid government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport
  • Proof of address, such as a utility bill or mortgage document showing your name and current address
  • Personal information, such as your Social Security number, address and birthdate
  • Birth certificate, Social Security card or student ID for minors
  • Employer identification or Social Security number, ownership agreements, business formation documents and business license for a business account

Your financial institution may have different requirements. Check online or with a bank representative to determine exactly what you’ll need.

How to open a bank account

You’ll typically follow these steps to open a bank account:

  1. Choose a bank. Consider the type of bank, such as traditional versus online-only banks. Compare fees, interest rates and balance requirements, and look for convenient digital features and a wide network of ATMs before you open an account. Make sure your choice is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) or the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). You can search for FDIC-insured banks with the BankFind Suite tool and NCUA-insured credit unions with the Credit Union Locator.
  2. Confirm eligibility requirements. Before applying for an account, make sure you qualify. Many banks require applicants to be 18 or older. A minor can often open an account with a parent or guardian and ID from both, but requirements can vary by financial institution.
  3. Verify account requirements. Read the fine print to ensure that you can satisfy the initial and ongoing account requirements. For example, you may have to meet a minimum deposit requirement and maintain a minimum balance. You may need to select a different account if the thresholds are too high, especially to avoid fees for dropping below a minimum balance.
  4. Apply for the account. You can often complete an application in minutes at the nearest branch or online. Depending on the financial institution, approvals may take longer.
  5. Make an initial deposit, if necessary. The financial institution may require a minimum opening deposit. Confirm the amount and provide it with your application.

How long does it take to open a bank account?

The timeline to open a bank account can depend on factors such as the type of account, the bank’s policies and procedures, and the completeness of your documentation. Generally, the process can take a few minutes to a few weeks.

Opening an account online may be faster than doing it in person. The online experience is often streamlined, although you still need to factor in the bank’s application processing time. Your bank may need one or two business days to approve your application for an account, and then you may need to wait another seven to 10 business days to receive your account documents by mail.

A high volume of applications can result in slower processing times.

If a debit card and checks come with the account, you will usually receive those by mail within 10 days after opening the account.

How old do you have to be to open a bank account?

The minimum age to open a bank account on your own in most states is 18. However, a parent or guardian can set up a bank account for the benefit of a minor.

Review the bank’s rules and requirements to open an account for a minor before you start an application. Some banks may need the parent or guardian to have an account before opening one for the child, for example.

You may be able to open an account for your minor online, or you may have to visit a branch in person. Either way, you must complete an application and provide the required paperwork and deposit. Check with your bank about specific requirements to establish an account for a minor.

How much does it cost to open a bank account?

The cost of opening an account can vary by bank. You may be able to open a bank account without depositing any cash, but it depends on the financial institution.

Look closely at the costs to open and maintain an account, making sure the account is affordable.

Here are some fees to check before you open a bank account:

  • Minimum deposit. This is the amount of money a financial institution requires to open an account. You may need to make a minimum deposit of $25 to $100 to open a checking or savings account. The deposit can be much higher for other products, such as money market accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs).
  • Monthly service fee. Banks can charge a maintenance fee on a one-time or ongoing basis. That fee may be $5 to $25 monthly. Some banks waive this fee if you keep a minimum amount in your account.
  • Overdraft fee. The bank may charge this fee when your purchase or withdrawal causes a negative account balance. Fees vary by bank but are generally about $35 per transaction, according to the FDIC. Banks may also charge continuous or daily overdraft fees, applied each day your account stays overdrawn. You can avoid overdraft fees by monitoring your account balance, setting up account alerts and linking a savings account to your checking account.
  • ATM fees. You can be charged a fee if you use an ATM outside the bank’s network to withdraw cash or even check your balance. Fees range from $2.50 to $5 per transaction, depending on the ATM operator, network or bank — and they can add up quickly if you’re not careful. Some banks will reimburse your fees, or you can stick to using in-network ATMs or getting cash back with debit card purchases.
  • Other service fees. Your bank may charge fees for wire transfers, stopped payments, returned check fees and more. Check the bank’s fee schedule for your account to know what to expect.

Frequently asked questions

How do I open a business bank account?

After you’ve chosen a bank and a type of account, you can open a business bank account either on the bank’s website or in person at a branch. Gather the required documentation and information, including your employer identification number, business license and formation documents, and business ownership agreements. Make the initial deposit — which can vary by bank and account type — to open the account.

How do I open a joint account?

When you’re applying for an account, specify that you want to open a joint account. You will need to provide the bank with personal information and photo IDs for all account holders, whether you apply online or in person. Another option is to add a co-owner to an account, and you will typically need to do this in person rather than online.

How many bank accounts should I have?

The ideal number of bank accounts depends on your financial objectives. Having multiple accounts can help you save toward specific goals, separate your finances, and maximize interest earnings and benefits. You’ll need to stay organized with multiple accounts and keep on top of balances, transactions and transfers to avoid overdrafts and ensure you manage your money effectively.

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