November 2, 2022
How long does it take to open a bank account?
College is a great time to open a bank account. Learn how long it takes and what you need to streamline the account opening process.
Taking control of your finances is a big part of going to college and becoming an adult—and it starts with opening a bank account.
Bank accounts give you a place to save your financial aid, paycheck, and other money you receive. Of course, they also let you spend that money when you need to.
First, you need to open a bank account. This isn’t the most fun task in the world, so you might want to know how long it takes.
This article will explain how long opening a bank account takes, walk you through the process, and offer some tips on shortening the process as much as possible.
How long opening a bank account takes
Opening a bank account is a key part of personal finance for college students.
The time it takes can vary between financial institutions and account types. Savings and checking may differ in the speed of opening. On top of that, debit cards linked to checking accounts can take a week or longer to arrive.
If you’re closing an old account and opening a new one, the whole process can take several days.
Finding the best bank account can also takes some time.
In general, it doesn’t take too long to open an account once a good bank has been found. The biggest difference is whether you open your account online or in person.
How long does it take to open a bank account online?
Opening a bank account online is the quicker option since there’s no need to leave your home or schedule an appointment ahead of time.
You can knock out the entire application in 10-15 minutes if you have all of your documents together.
If you already have an account at a bank, it might be even faster—especially through the bank’s mobile app.
The downside is that running into issues can prolong the process. There’s no face-to-face interaction, so fixing any problems can be a bit harder than an in-person appointment.
How long does it take to open a bank account in person?
Opening in person takes longer. Most banks will make you book an appointment. You might have to wait several days, depending on how busy that bank is.
Then, of course, you have to travel to that bank. The appointment and application itself can take a bit longer than online since you’re working with a human instead of a computer.
But the big benefit is face-to-face interaction. Communicating and solving issues is easier, assuming you brought all your documents.
In-person is often the best choice for your first bank account overall or your first account with a new bank. It’s also a good option if you have cash or a check you need to deposit right then and there.
What you need to open a bank account as fast as possible
Banks and credit unions need a bunch of info about you to open your account—and this info will be detailed on the “vital documents” section of the account information.
The nice thing is that some documents cover multiple bases.
Knowing this info and gathering the correct documents ahead of time smooths out the account opening process.
Proof of identification
You’ll need 2 forms of ID. The exact requirements can vary by bank, but here’s generally what to expect:
One form of photo ID issued by the US or a foreign government: This could be a valid driver’s license, state ID, or passport, to name a few.
A second form of ID: This could be your Social Security card, birth certificate, or a bill in your name, such as an electronic bill statement.
Proof of address
Here are some documents you can use to prove your address:
Active utility bill
Credit card statement
Again, some documents here may double up with other document requirements.
Social Security number or ITIN
Your Social Security card offers proof of your Social Security number, even if you used your Social Security card for proof of ID as well.
Certain other documents may work if you can’t find your Social Security card` but check with the bank. Otherwise, you can order a new card.
If you don’t have a Social Security number, you may have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number instead. Your ITIN can be found on your ITIN letter—use this as proof.
Minimum opening deposit
Some accounts demand a minimum deposit to open the account. Bringing cash or a check to your appointment, if it’s in person, works.
If you’re applying online, you might have to authorize a transfer from an existing bank account or deposit a check via the mobile app if you don’t have a bank account.
How to open a bank account, step-by-step
Opening your bank account doesn’t take too long in the grand scheme of things, but you can run into time-wasting hangups along the way if you aren’t prepared.
Follow these steps to make the bank account opening process as quick and painless as possible.
Know the account type you need
Figure out which account type you need first.
The 2 main types students find useful are checking and savings accounts.
Checking accounts are designed for your spending money. They don’t often pay interest, but you can write checks or use your debit card to spend out of the account with little restriction.
Savings accounts are designed for saving, as the name implies. They pay interest to help you keep pace with inflation, but you can usually only take money out of your account 6 times per month—after that, they may charge you a fee.
Regardless of which you choose, look for student-focused bank accounts. These tend to have low minimum balances, low or no fees, and access to financial literacy learning resources. All this makes it easier for you to manage your money and take control of your finances.
After settling on an account type, compare different banks and credit unions to see where they shine.
Here are some factors to weigh:
ATMs: How many ATMs do they offer? Do they charge or reimburse out-of-network ATM fees?
Cash back and promotional opportunities: Many banks offer free money for opening and keeping an account for a certain time. Some pay rewards on debit card spending.
Customer service: How many ways can you access customer service (phone, live chat, branches, email, etc.)? What are their customer service hours? Do they have self-help resources?
Fees: Banks may charge fees for various things—try to find banks with low fees to save money.
Interest rates: High-yield savings accounts pay far more interest than traditional accounts. Some banks even pay interest on checking accounts.
Online and mobile banking: Does the bank have a fast and intuitive online banking portal and mobile app? This is great for banking on the go.
Gather the documents you need
This step is quick but saves a lot of trouble when it's application time.
Gather the documents you need for the application. When it’s time to apply, double-check that you have everything before starting the application process or going to your appointment.
Keep these documents in a safe place, like a lockbox. This will help you keep track of the documents so applying for more accounts in the future is faster.
Apply for the bank account
If you’re applying online, go to the bank’s website and start an application.
You’ll then need to fill in any information asked and potentially upload digital versions of your documents or scanned hard copies if applicable.
Processing these documents can take a minute, but you’ll likely get an approval message shortly.
If you’re applying in person, you may need to schedule an appointment first.
Bring your folder of documents with you and show up a few minutes early for your appointment, just in case.
The banker will ask to see your documents, then spend a few minutes filling in information on their end. You’ll then read and sign a bunch of disclosures and other documents to officially open the account.
In either case, you’ll get copies of all disclosures and other important information for your records.
Deposit money into the account
Finally, deposit money into your account if it requires a minimum deposit.
If you applied online, the application might ask you to link another bank account and initiate an ACH transfer. It might also let you deposit a check via its mobile phone app if it has remote deposit capabilities.
If you apply in person, bring cash or a check if possible. Otherwise, you might be able to transfer money from another bank (like your parent’s) online.
If no minimum deposit is required, make a deposit ASAP to start saving money. The quicker you get money in your new account, the earlier you can potentially start earning interest on it—every penny counts!
Get a bank account and start saving ASAP
We get it. You have plenty on your plate, from homework to club meetings to social time.
Luckily, opening a bank account does not take all that long. Prepare your documents and a minimum initial deposit ahead of time, then hop online to set up your account—or schedule an in-person appointment if you have some time.
For more advice and assistance with opening and maintaining a bank account in college, check out our complete guide to banking for college students. If you’re interested in a fee-free debit card and checking account, why not check out Mos?