Online banking options provided by both traditional and virtual banks let you conduct business on a 24/7 basis. Depending on the bank and its business rules, most provide anyone 18 years and older the option to open an online checking or savings account.
Step 1: Provide Account Owner and Identifying Information
The application will ask for personal and contact information, your Social Security number and information that the bank can use to identify you. This usually consists of your driver's license or state-issued identification number, your mother's maiden name and a previous address. The address you provide must be a street address -- not a post office box number.
Because every online bank must comply with Section 326 of the USA Patriot Act designed to prevent and fight terrorism and money laundering, the bank may ask you to upload or fax a copy of your driver's license or ID card for identification purposes.
To verify the remaining information and make sure that a person is not trying to open an account in your name, the bank will access information available in public records, credit agencies and other financial institutions and then ask you a series of questions only you can answer. For example, you might be asked to choose the correct date you took out an auto loan from a series of dates.
Step 2: Read and Sign Disclosure Documents
In this step, you'll be asked to read and agree to the terms and conditions of the account as required by Regulation E of the Code of Federal Regulations. Although these documents are stored and readily accessible from your online account, there will be an option to print or download the documents to your home computer.
Step 3: Fund the Account
Here, you'll get your bank account number and fund the account. Most banks provide a number of options for funding a new account. These include
- Transferring the money from an existing account at the same bank
- Wire transfer from another financial institution
- Transfer money using your debit card, or a credit card if the bank accepts credit card transfers
- Use the bank's eCheck deposit option to scan a check from a Smartphone or home scanner
- Mail a check made payable to you, endorsed and marked "for deposit only" to the address your bank provides
Step 4: What Comes Next
Although you'll have access to any funds in the account immediately, you're not quite finished with the setup process.
- First, you'll need to enroll in online banking if it wasn't part of the application process.
- Second, you'll need to provide a copy of your driver's license or state ID if the bank requests this.
- Third, you'll need to sign and return signature cards the bank will send to your mailing address within 60 days. If you open an interest-bearing account and fail to return the signature card, federal law requires the bank to start withholding taxes on the interest the account earns.