How can I open a bank account online?

TransferWise
03.26.20
5 minute read

These days, we are used to essential services being delivered online. It’s more convenient, saves time, and means we can manage our day to day life on the move. However, opening a bank account online can still seem pretty tricky.

The good news is that there are more and more options to open accounts online, both from traditional banks, and modern alternatives like the Transferwise multi-currency account. This guide takes a look at some of the best account types available online, and how to get started with them.

What information do I need to open a bank account online?

Each bank or provider will have its own policy and process for opening an account online, so you’ll need to double check the small print when you’ve chosen the right account for you. However, there are some standard piece of information you’ll be asked for when getting your account set up[1,2,3]:

  • Personal details - your name and date of birth for example
  • Contact information including a residential address, phone number and email
  • Proof of ID - often using your SSN and a government issued document such as a driving license
  • Full details of the linked account or card you’ll use to fund your account’s opening balance

Here’s the documentation you’ll need to open a bank account online:

Double check the paperwork your bank requires, as it can vary. However, you can expect to need the following:

  • Identity documents - a scanned copy of a passport or driving license, for example
  • Proof you’re a US citizen or legal resident - your SSN details of ITIN
  • Evidence of your residential address - this will be where you actually live, and usually can’t be a PO Box or similar

What type of account should I get?

Before you choose an account provider, you need to think about the type of account that will best serve your needs. Here are some options:

Online checking accounts

Like the checking account you might already hold with a brick and mortar bank, an online checking account is good for your day to day spending needs. You’ll usually get a card and check book, and easy access to your funds. However, you may not earn interest on money held in the account, and there may be fees to pay for some services.

Online savings accounts

If you’re expecting to hold a large balance in your online account, you’ll want it to work for you. That means selecting an interest bearing savings account. There are many different account types available, including term deposits which mean you lock in your money for a fixed period, in exchange for a higher than average interest rate. Check out all the terms and conditions before you decide on which account will work for you. You might pay a penalty to access your money before a certain date, for example, which is well worth knowing about in advance.

Specialty accounts

While some regular banks offer online account options, there are also some great challenger banks and specialist providers offering modern alternatives to traditional accounts. These can help you manage your money even better, either as an additional account for specific needs, or as a replacement to one of the older accounts you hold.

For example, if you travel frequently, shop online with international retailers, or work freelance and get an income from abroad, the Transferwise multi-currency account could help you save time and money.

You can hold over 40 currencies in the same account, and switch between them using the mid-market rate. That means you can top up your account in dollars, and convert to foreign currencies for just a low transparent fee if you plan to travel or spend online with stores based abroad. You can spend any currency you hold for free using your linked Mastercard debit card, so there are no foreign transaction fees to pay.

TransferWise can also help if you get an income from abroad. You’ll get bank details for the US, UK, Australia, New Zealans and the euro area, so you can get paid like a local - without any fees - from these regions. Just give clients your foreign bank details for simple and free payments.

Because TransferWise takes a modern approach to cross border payments, you’ll also be able to avoid SWIFT fees on most routes. The SWIFT network is used by most traditional banks to process international transfers, but can mean you get less than you expect in the end due to unexpected fees levied by intermediaries involved in the process. Cut out the middleman - and the costs - with TransferWise

Which banks let me open an account online?

As we have mentioned already, the Transferwise multi-currency account is a great modern solution for people living international lifestyles. You can also choose an online account from a challenger bank, or look for a traditional bank which allows online account opening.

Finding the best option for you will require some research. However, some good places to start include Ally Bank[4] or Chime[5] for online checking and saving accounts, and Wells Fargo[6] or Capital One[7] for an online process from a traditional bank.

It’s worth noting that opening an account online with a traditional bank is usually easier if you have US credit history and a good credit score.

How do I fund my account?

If you’re opening your account online, you want to be able to fund and manage it electronically. You’ll be able to top up your account using a bank transfer, or a credit or debit card payment - or send or drop off a check if you’re using a traditional bank.

If you choose the Transferwise multi-currency account you can add funds using direct debit for a small fee, or by bank transfer in a range of currencies for free.

Banking online can make life much easier, and mean you never need to stand in line in your local branch again. Do a little research to find the account that works best for you, looking at the online accounts on offer from traditional banks as well as those provided by modern alternative providers. There are plenty of options out there, so you’ll be able to find one which meets your needs and helps you cut your costs at the same time.


Sources:

  1. Here's What You Need to Know to Open Bank Accounts Online
  2. How to Open a Bank Account Online
  3. Opening A Bank Account Online
  4. Online Banking: Why Bank Online with Ally?
  5. Chime - Banking with No Hidden Fees and Free Overdraft
  6. Compare and Open a Bank Account Online
  7. Checking Accounts: Open Online Today

All sources last checked 19 March 2020


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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