How Long Does It Take to Open a Bank Account?

By Kelly Boyer Sagert · March 15, 2022 · 6 minute read

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How Long Does It Take to Open a Bank Account?

Depending on whether you are opening an account online or in person, this process can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. Whether you are opening a checking account or a savings account can also make a difference in how much time you will need to invest. Here, we’ll review what to expect when you open a new bank account, and we’ll also share some tips to help you accomplish this important financial task as quickly as possible. We’ll also offer guidance if, for some reason, you can’t open a bank account right now but are looking for ways to put your money in a safe place. Ready? Let’s get started.

What to Do Before Opening a Bank Account

To begin opening a new bank account, you’ll need to make two key decisions: where you’ll open the account and the type of account you want. Options about where to park your funds typically include the following:

•   Banks

•   Credit Unions

•   Online Financial Institutions

When people use the term bank, they are usually referring to brick-and-mortar ones, including the large national chains as well as smaller, more local ones. You can physically visit them, typically through a lobby or drive-through, and they offer a range of savings and lending services.

Credit unions, on the other hand, are a different kind of financial institution (usually brick and mortar as well). With this structure, account holders are members. Some credit unions are national; others are more regional in terms of their reach and their branches. Members usually need to meet certain guidelines to join, perhaps related to their job or geography, and they can often benefit from lower loan rates and higher interest when saving.

Online banks offer services that are likely to be similar to brick and mortar banks. However, account holders will bank through a website and/or mobile app. Because online banks don’t have the expense of physical locations to maintain, they can typically offer better interest rates and charge fewer fees than traditional banks.

Once you have made a decision about whether traditional or online banking or a credit union feels like the right fit for you, you’re ready to move ahead to the next step. The second key decision is what kind of account to open, perhaps a checking, savings, or money market account.

With a checking account, the account holder opens a checking account by depositing money into this account, whether in person, online, or through direct deposit. They then have the ability to write checks, use a debit card, or use an online payment system (like PayPal) to make purchases, pay bills, and so forth. Sometimes, the money in the account may earn interest.

With a savings account, once the money is deposited, the goal is usually for it to grow, perhaps as an emergency savings account or one designed to save up for a larger purchase. Financial institutions will differ in the interest rates they’ll pay, so you may want to shop around and see where you can get the best deals, noting whether there are minimum balance requirements and other qualifications required.

Money market accounts are another fairly common option. These are typically used to hold money that the account holder doesn’t intend to spend right away. Many money market accounts also come with convenient check-writing/debit-card features if you do want to tap the funds you’ve deposited. This type of account earns interest. (Opening an investment bank account is another option to explore if you are seeking an account that will grow your money as you save toward a longer-term goal. However, unlike the other accounts we have mentioned, these will not be FDIC-insured, so consider how much risk of loss you can tolerate.)

How Long Does It Take to Open a Bank Account?

If time is of the essence — say, you’ve just moved to a new town and need to get your banking set up, or you are a recent grad who’s just starting on “adulting,” you may wonder, “How long does it take to make a bank account?” Allow us to fill you in next.

Various kinds of financial institutions have different processes and timelines for creating a bank account. Completing the steps to open an account may be faster online than in person.

Online

Online applications typically have fields where you can quickly enter information or check a particular box. So, you may be able to complete the information in 15 minutes, especially if you have all of your personal data at hand.

Physically

It may take a bit longer to physically apply at a brick and mortar because you may need to wait in a line to see a teller and you may need to fill in the application by hand. Then, in general, figure that a bank may take a couple of days to verify your information and respond. Plus, if checks and/or a debit card are involved, those will usually be physically mailed to you, which can take a week to ten days till receipt.

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How to Open a Bank Account

Once you know the type of account you want to open and where, you can go to a physical location during banking hours or open the account yourself online, anytime and anywhere. Be prepared with government forms of ID, which can include a driver’s license, state ID, military ID, or passport. Also have your Social Security number handy.

Financial institutions will ask for personal information, including your name, address, telephone number, date of birth, and Social Security number to verify your identity. (Opening an account without IDs is possible, but will take some additional steps.)

The financial institution may check your credit before opening up the bank account. Usually, if they do, it is what’s known as a “soft” pull or inquiry that won’t appear on your credit report’s history. What’s more, the prospective account holder typically doesn’t need to have stellar credit to qualify; it’s just a checkpoint as the bank gets to know you and understand if you pose a risk in terms of keeping your account in good shape. If you’re concerned about this step for any reason, ask about the bank’s policy before proceeding.

Once an account is approved, you’ll need to agree to terms and conditions, perhaps by signing a physical document at a brick-and-mortar location or by checking an “I agree” button online. Then, you can make a deposit of funds that’s at least enough to meet the financial institution’s minimum requirement.

What to Do If You Cannot Open a Bank Account

If you’re turned down for a bank account (yes, unfortunately; it does happen), the first step can be to check the rejection letter for a reason. If that isn’t clear, then ask the financial institution why the account couldn’t be opened right now. Also ask about the timeframe to remedy the situation and/or reapply. How long does it take to get a bank account approved after a rejection? It’s possible that the solution is simple, perhaps requiring more information or a clarification.

If credit history is an issue, you can work on fixing that. In the meantime, you could try other financial institutions with different guidelines. It may be easier to be approved by an online bank. Also, some banks have products specifically designed for people who are trying to build or repair their credit. They may come with more restrictions but can serve as a bridge between now and when you can qualify for other bank accounts.

The Takeaway

If you’re ready to open a bank account, whether it’s a checking or a savings account, you’ll have choices of doing so at a brick-and-mortar bank, an online bank, or a credit union. Typically, working with an online bank will be your quickest option, with an account potentially being set up in just a few minutes. The same process at a physical bank can take an hour (not including travel time), and you will possibly then need to wait for approval of your application. Depending on your needs, you may find that an online bank is able to get you up and running, ready to receive funds, and pay your expenses in the shortest possible time, which can be super-convenient in today’s hectic world.

SoFi: Online Banking to Suit Your Needs

SoFi Bank, N.A. knows you don’t have time to wait in line and meet with a bank representative for half an hour, an hour, or more just to open an account. That’s why we’re ready to help you open an bank account online as quickly and easily as possible, with just a few clicks. What’s more, you can benefit by getting your paycheck up to two days early, paying no account or overdraft fees, and reaching your financial goals more quickly. Even more reason to check us out: We are offering checking and savings accounts with 1.00% APY.

FAQ

What do I need to open a bank account?

Financial institutions will typically want to see government forms of ID, such as your driver’s license, state ID, passport, or military ID. You’ll need to share personal information, such as your name, address, phone, and email address, along with your date of birth and Social Security number. Also, you often need to make an initial deposit of funds, although specifics vary by bank.

How much money do you need to open a bank account?

It depends! Financial institutions vary in terms of how much they require as a minimum deposit amount, with some not having one at all. Sometimes, banks will charge a fee if you don’t maintain a certain balance in your account, so compare financial institution policies to find one that works well for you.

How fast can I open a bank account?

If you’re referring to the actual process of applying, it can be as fast as 15 minutes or so. Approvals, however, may take anywhere from an instant to a couple days, especially at brick-and-mortar banks. Also, it can take a week or more to get physical checks and/or a debit card by snail mail.


Photo credit: iStock/Vladimir Sukhachev

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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