Banking » Savings » How to Open Savings Accounts: Step By Step Guide
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How to Open Savings Accounts: Step By Step Guide

If you’ve decided to open a savings account, there are several steps to take. From comparing accounts to gathering paperwork, here are they:
Author: Lorraine Smithills
Lorraine Smithills

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Lorraine is a freelance finance writer with years of experience in the banking sector and after a successful career in one of the largest retail and commercial financial services providers. She has a passion for helping people with less financial confidence to get control of their money through budgeting, saving, and responsible credit practices.

Review & Fact Check: Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Financial Expert, The Smart Investor CEO

Experience

Baruch Mann (Silvermann) is a financial expert and founder of The Smart Investor. Above all, he is passionate about teaching people how to manage their money and helping millions on their journey to a better financial future.
Author: Lorraine Smithills
Lorraine Smithills

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Lorraine is a freelance finance writer with years of experience in the banking sector and after a successful career in one of the largest retail and commercial financial services providers. She has a passion for helping people with less financial confidence to get control of their money through budgeting, saving, and responsible credit practices.

Review & Fact Check: Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Financial Expert, The Smart Investor CEO

Experience

Baruch Mann (Silvermann) is a financial expert and founder of The Smart Investor. Above all, he is passionate about teaching people how to manage their money and helping millions on their journey to a better financial future.

We earn a commission from our partner links on this page. It doesn't affect the integrity of our unbiased, independent editorial staff. Transparency is a core value for us, read our advertiser disclosure and how we make money.

Table Of Content

Can I Open A Savings Account Online?

Most Americans have a savings account, but at least 77.02% of the savings accounts have less than $15,000. This is according to a report by Motley Fool, which shows 21.99% of savings accounts in the US have a balance of $1,000 to $5,000. 

 

A savings account is typically a go-to choice if you want to put some money away for a financial goal, have some emergency funds on hand, or don’t want to tie up your money. While savings accounts are very common, many people still find the process of opening savings account a little overwhelming.

Fortunately, the internet age has made opening a savings account even easier. Not only are there online banks and financial institutions that offer savings accounts, but many of the major banks have now made it possible to open a savings account online.

So, here we’ll explore this process in more detail to help you feel comfortable about opening your new savings account.

What Do You Need to Open a Savings Account?

Whether opening a savings account in a branch or online, you’ll need to arrange the required documentation. There are some must-have supporting documents and a few that are optional, which can streamline the account opening process. These include:

  • Proof of Your ID: All banks and financial institutions are required to verify an applicant’s ID before they can open an account, even a savings account. Accepted forms of ID to prove your identity include a valid driver’s license, a current U.S. passport, or other state-issued photo ID.
  • Proof of Your Address: You will also need to provide proof of your address. This could be a utility bill or a recent bank statement.
  • Your Social Security Number: Your Social Security Number is part of the application form, so you won’t need to submit a copy of your card, but if you’re unsure about remembering your number, it is a good idea to have it handy.
  • Your Bank Credentials: If you’re opening a savings account to link to an existing bank account, for example to have maintenance fees waived or for overdraft protection, you may need to have your bank account credentials.

Steps to Open an Online Savings Account

If you’ve decided that you want to open your new savings account online, there are several steps you’ll need to go through.

1. Compare Savings Account Options

The first step has to be to compare the savings accounts on offer to see which ones best suit your needs. You’ll need to consider a number of factors, including:

The most obvious area of comparison is the rate offered on your balance.

The rate should not be the only factor you consider, but it will make a difference on how much you earn on your savings.

Bank/Institution
Savings APY
American Express
3.30%
Capital One
3.30%
Upgrade
4.13%
Marcus
3.30%
Discover Bank
3.30%
Lending Club
3.60%
Quontic
3.20%
Axos Bank
Up to 4.21%
Alliant Credit Union
2.60%
Ally Bank
3.30%
SoFi
3.75%

Another thing that you need to consider is whether you can easily access your funds. If you are using the account for your emergency fund, you won’t want to have to wait to draw money to pay an unexpected bill.

Most savings accounts provide instant access, but you will be restricted to a maximum number of withdrawals per month.

 You will also need to compare any fees or charges that may apply to your account. Some savings accounts have a monthly maintenance fee, which could quickly negate any interest you earn on your account.

If an account has a monthly maintenance fee, but is otherwise very attractive, be sure that you can easily meet any waiver criteria to minimize your costs.

Bank/institution
Monthly Fee
Bank Type
Bank of America Advantage Plus Checking
$12 can be waived by maintaining an account balance of $1,500, qualifying deposit of $250+ per month or enrol in Preferred Rewards
Traditional
Chase Total Checking®
$12 Can be waived if you maintain a $1,000 minimum daily balance, making direct deposits or Associated SnapDeposits of $500 or more per statement cycle, or holding $2,500 in combined deposit accounts with the same statement cycle date or having a Health Savings Account or investment account
Traditional
Citi Checking Account
$12 Can be waived if you make one qualifying direct deposit and one qualifying bill payment per statement period, maintain a combined balance of $1,500 per month across your eligible accounts or if you’re aged 62
Traditional
PNC Standard Checking
$7 per month can be waived if you maintin $500+ direct deposit per month, $500+ monthly balance in savings or age 62+
Traditional
U.S. Bank Checking
$6.95 (Easy Checking) Can be waived by maintaining an average account balance of $1,500, have $1,000+ in direct deposits per month or be aged 65+
Traditional
Wells Fargo Everyday Checking
$10 Related to Wells Fargo Everyday Checking. The fee can be waived if you maintain a minimum daily balance of $500 or receive at least $500 in qualifying direct deposits per month. The fee is also waived if you’re 17 to 24 and have a linked Wells Fargo Campus Debit Card or Campus ATM card linked to the checking account
Traditional
Capital One 360 Checking
$0
Online Only
Amex Rewards Checking
$0
Online Only
SoFi Bank
$0
Online Only
Marcus
$0
Online Only

Another factor that may be important to you is what deposit options are available for your new savings account. If your account is online only, you may be limited to depositing funds electronically via ACH or other transfers.

However, if you tend to deal in cash and want to pay cash into your savings account, you will need to choose an account that is accessible in the branch or allows cash deposits via ATM.

2. Gather Your Paperwork

We’ve already covered the supporting documents you’ll need for your application. Proof of Your ID and Address, SSN, and bank credentials (if you open your savings where you manage your checking) are required to start your application.

However, it is a good idea to have all your paperwork before starting the account application process. While many banks allow you to save your application part way through, it will delay the account opening.

So, it is best to have everything ready so you can go straight through the application and submit it without any delay.

3. Complete the Application Form

Once you’ve decided which savings account to open, you’ll need to visit the bank’s official website to find the product page. You can then read through the full product information to confirm that you are ready to open an account. You should see a link or a button to “apply.”

After you click the apply button, you’ll be directed to an application form. This is usually several pages, and you’ll need to provide information such as:

  • Your full name
  • Address
  • Email Address
  • Phone number
  • Your Social Security Number

Most fields will require that you complete them, and you may have options to save the application periodically, depending on the specific bank.

4. Provide Your Supporting Documents And Submit

The procedure for providing your supporting documents varies depending on the particular bank. Some banks have an upload page as part of the application form, but others will send you instructions on how to send your documents via email.

In either scenario, you should aim to send your documents as quickly as possible to avoid a delay in your account opening. Most banks allow you to submit a picture of your ID, but make sure the picture is clear and the details are legible before you send them.

5. Await Approval

After you submit your application and send or upload your supporting documents, you simply need to wait for an approval decision. Most banks decide whether your account can be opened within a day, but some financial institutions require a little more time.

Once you receive an email informing you that your application has been approved, you will have instructions for setting up online banking and detailing your new account number.

Optional: Set Up Online Banking/Banking Apps

This is an optional step, but it will make it easier to fund your new account.

It can also make it far more straightforward to manage your new account. For example, if you already hold an account with the bank, you can add your new savings account to your online banking dashboard.

It is also a good idea to link your savings account to your checking account if you want to use an overdraft protection feature, or linking your accounts will help you waive any maintenance fees on your checking account.

Lock your rate when opening a savings account
(Photo by Billion Photos/Shutterstock)

Should I Open a Savings Account?

Having one or more savings accounts can be a great way to organize your day-to-day finances. There are a number of scenarios where opening a savings account is a good idea. These include:

  • You want to earn interest on overflow cash: If you have cash in your checking account, but no bills due at the moment, a savings account can allow you to earn a little interest on your funds in the interim. You can even automate the process to transfer funds back into your checking account in time for your bills.
  • An Emergency Fund: An unexpected bill or expense has the potential to derail your financial plans, but if you have a savings account containing an emergency fund you can stay on track. Financial experts typically recommend having three to six months of your typical monthly expenses in the bank. However, there is no reason that you shouldn’t be earning interest on your emergency fund, while keeping it close at hand.
  • You’re Saving for a Major Purchase: Whether you’re saving up to buy a new car, planning home renovations or want to book a vacation, having a savings account makes it easy to keep your funds secure. You can set up an automatic transfer from your checking account after each paycheck, so you’ll stick to your savings goals.

When Opening a Savings Account May Not Be a Good Idea

However, there are some circumstances where opening a savings account may not be the best idea for you. These include:

  • You Won’t Use the Account Enough to Cover the Fees: If your new savings account has a monthly maintenance fee that you won’t be able to cover with your typical activities each month, it is not a good idea to open the account.
  • You’re Looking for a Long-Term Investment: A savings account may not be the right option if you plan for retirement or another long-term goal. If you’re looking for a long-term investment that offers the best returns without immediate access, you may need to look at bonds, stocks, or CDs.
  • You’re Struggling to Manage Your Accounts: If you’ve already got several savings accounts and are struggling to keep track, opening another savings account is not likely the best option. While savings accounts don’t typically allow you to go overdrawn, there may be fees and charges resulting from poor account management. So, it is best to simplify your accounts to keep everything on track.

Can I Open a Savings Account With a Credit Union?

Credit unions often offer savings accounts and higher rates of return. The reason for this is that credit unions are owned by their members. So, rather than paying profits to shareholders, credit unions reinvest money into the credit union.

However, unlike banks, credit unions are not available to everyone. To join a credit union, you need to meet the membership criteria. This could be something as simple as living within a particular geographic area or working in a particular industry. But, some credit unions are more readily available if you support a particular organization.

The standard account for credit union members is a savings account. In fact, some credit unions will open you with a savings account as part of the membership application. It is worth checking what services the credit union offers; some have to check accounts, mortgages, personal loans, and more. So, you can move much or all of your banking requirements to the credit union.

Largest Traditional Banks
Largest Online Banks
Chase Bank
American Express
Wells Fargo
Marcus
Bank Of America
Capital One
Citi Bank
Synchrony Bank
PNC Bank
Discover Bank
U.S. Bank
Ally Bank

How to Open a Joint Savings Account?

Many banks and financial institutions allow co-ownership on savings accounts. The account opening process is similar to opening a sole account, and you may still be able to open the account online.

The key difference is that you will need to provide personal details and supporting documents for both parties. This means you will need to know the other person’s full name, email address, Social Security Number, and other personal details. You will also need access to the other person’s proof of ID and proof of address.

However, you don’t necessarily need to live at the same address as your co-account holder. You can open a joint savings account with practically anyone. Just be aware that both of you will have full access to the account. This means that you can both make deposits and withdrawals on the account.

Since you have opened the account as a joint account, the bank makes the assumption that any funds in the account belong to both of you. So, even if you’ve funded the account in full, the other person can withdraw all the funds without your permission.

This makes it crucial that you only open a joint savings account with someone that you trust completely

Is My Money Safe with an Online Savings Account?

Most banks are FDIC insured, which means that your money is safe in your online savings account. FDIC insurance covers up to $250,000 per depositor in each ownership category, per insurance bank. This means that if you have a balance in your savings account with bank A, it is not impacted by having a balance in savings account with bank B or having a checking account balance with any insured bank.

FDIC insurance provides coverage in the event that a bank fails. In this scenario, you could still have access to your account funds.

If your online savings account is with a credit union, you can still benefit from federal insurance, but it is provided by the NCUA (National Credit Union Administration.) However, the coverage limits are the same as FDIC coverage.

Tips for Opening an Online Savings Account

While opening an online savings account is quite straightforward, some tips can help you maximize your new account's benefits. These include:

Your first port of call when considering a savings account is with your current bank. 

If you already have a checking account or another type of account with a bank, it is a good idea to check what savings accounts are available to you. You may be able to access preferential terms for being an existing customer.

If you are not concerned about being limited to a maximum number of monthly withdrawals, look for high-yield savings accounts

These accounts work similarly to standard savings accounts, but you can access far higher rates, often up to 10 times the standard savings rates.

f many of the savings accounts on the market appear very similar, look for banks that offer account tools, which will make managing your money easier. This could be something as simple as budgeting tools to help you reach your savings goals, but many banks offer to round up. 

This feature applies when you have a checking and savings account, and when you use your debit card, the amount applied to your account is rounded up, with the difference going into your savings automatically.

Savings accounts tend to be quite straightforward, but it is always important to check for any hidden costs or charges. Before you open an account, check the terms and conditions to ensure you are fully aware of what fees will apply.

saving money concept
(Photo by Billion Photos/Shutterstock)

Why Can’t I Open a Savings Account?

While savings accounts don’t have the same level of applicant requirements as a checking account, there may still be circumstances where your application is rejected. These include:

  • The bank is unable to verify your identity: Many banks use various methods to verify your identity. So, if you are unable to provide a photo ID and you cannot be found on public records, the bank will reject your application.
  • The funds transfer cannot be completed: If the savings account requires a minimum initial deposit and the bank is unable to verify the account from where you want to transfer funds, the application will be placed on hold or rejected.
  • Outstanding negative balances: If you have accounts with outstanding negative balances, the bank may not be comfortable offering you an account. For example, if you had a joint account and stopped using the account after a relationship breakup, should the account be closed due to an overdrawn balance, it will reflect on your financial history.
  • ChexSystems red flags: Most banks do not run your credit when you apply for a savings account, but they may still check the ChexSystems database. This will highlight red flags such as having accounts closed by a bank or too many bounced checks, which will indicate that you’re not a desirable customer.

How to Use a Savings Account

If you want to get the best out of your savings account, there are several things that you should do.

  • Set up auto transfers: If you have a savings plan, it is a good idea to set up an automatic transfer into your savings account each week or month. While you may struggle to save, you may not notice transferring $100 into your savings account every payday, but at the end of the year, you’ll have $1200+ in the account.
  • Use the account for overdraft protection: Overdraft charges can quickly compromise your budget, but many banks allow you to link your savings account to your checking account to provide a buffer. In this scenario, the bank automatically transfers sufficient funds from your savings to avoid the overdraft charge if your checking account is about to go overdrawn.
  • Avoid withdrawals: Many savings accounts are supplied with an ATM card, but if you want to maintain your savings goals, avoid the temptation of spending by avoiding using your ATM card. It is a good idea to put your ATM card in a safe place and avoid carrying it in your wallet.

How to Close a Savings Account

The precise procedure for closing a savings account varies from bank to bank, but generally, you’ll need to follow some basic steps.

  1. Check for outstanding transactions: The first thing you will need to do is make sure that there are no pending transactions that have not yet been applied to the account. If you have a deposit pending, you’ll need to make sure your account remains open until it lands or you could risk a long delay in receiving the funds. You should also check if any charges have yet to be applied to your account.
  2. Clear the balance: This can be done as part of the account closure, but many customers prefer to move the savings account balance to another account.
  3. Contact your bank: Most banks do not allow you to close an account online, so you’ll need to contact the bank via phone helpline, email, or branch. The bank representative will go through the closure process with you, which will usually include asking why you want to close the account. You don’t need to make up elaborate reasons. Simply let them know that you no longer need the account.
  4. Await closure confirmation: You should receive confirmation that your closure request has been processed and that the account is no longer active.

FAQs

This depends on the bank. Some banks allow you to designate a transfer amount as part of the application process, particularly if the account has a minimum deposit requirement.

If this is not possible, you should be able to make a deposit as soon as you have confirmation that the account is open and you have the new account details.

Yes, many banks have special savings accounts for children. As a parent or guardian, you can open a savings account on your child’s behalf, but you will act as co-owner of the account.

APY refers to Annual Percentage Yield. In simple terms, this is the amount of interest you will earn on your balance as a percentage rate.

Yes, you should be able to wire money from your savings account as you would with your checking account.

Most savings accounts offer an ATM card, but most do not provide a debit card.

Lorraine Smithills

Lorraine Smithills

Lorraine is a freelance finance writer with years of experience in the banking sector and after a successful career in one of the largest retail and commercial financial services providers. She has a passion for helping people with less financial confidence to get control of their money through budgeting, saving, and responsible credit practices.