Once you've found the bank that fits your financial needs, you'll have your new account opened in no time flat with these five easy steps.

Step 1: Choose a bank and product

You may have already done this. If not, shop around. Just as you should go to more than one store to find the best deal, the same care should go into choosing a financial institution that fits your needs.

An easy way to get this done is to look at institutions’ websites.You can also visit several banks at locations that are convenient for you and compare product offerings.

Note about online bank accounts: An online bank account is an account that is only offered online. The major benefit is that online accounts generally have higher yields or Annual Percentage Yield (APY) than traditional accounts. This allows you to earn more with the same amount of deposited money. But ask these questions before you sign up:

  • Will you have easy access to your money?
  • Can you link the online account to other accounts from other institutions?
  • Can you pay bills and make other transactions with this account?
  • How good is the customer service?
  • Lastly, just because you apply for an account online, doesn't mean you have an online bank account.

Step 2: Complete an application form
In order to open an account, you must complete a short application and provide basic information to the bank for regulation reasons. Banks will ask for details like your name, address, birthday, and at least one form of government-issued ID (a passport or driver’s license). Banks now allow customers to open bank accounts online, as well as, in person.

If you’re doing this online, you may just need to type the information into a text box. If you open bank accounts in person you can hand your IDs over to the banker who will probably make photocopies.

You’ll also have to agree to abide by certain rules and accept responsibility for certain actions. If you open bank accounts online, you complete this step by clicking an “I Agree” (or similar) button, and performing the next step.

Step 3: Print, Sign, and Mail (applicable if opening a bank account online)
If you open bank accounts in person, this step does not apply. Go to Step 4. 

If you are opening an account online, you’ll probably have to print, sign, and mail a document to the bank before the account is opened. Some banks may use electronic disclosure and consent that is legally binding, but many still won’t open bank accounts unless you complete this step. Until they receive the documents, your account is not active.

Step 4: Make a deposit
Depending on the type of account, the bank will ask you to make a minimum deposit. However, if it's a "free" checking account, the amount you deposit is up to you.

Step 5:  Receive the welcome package
It takes anywhere between a few days to a couple of weeks for the bank to process your paperwork. Then, they will mail you everything you need for the account, such as a complimentary set of checkbooks, debit cards, and Personal Identification Number (PIN) which you can change at a branch office.