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Knowing how to open a savings account means knowing how to make your money work for you. Cash in a savings account typically earns interest — potentially near 3%, which is better than the national average savings rate of 0.33%. Ready to get started? Here are the steps to take, followed by tips on finding the best option.
7 steps to take to open a savings account
1. Choose how to apply
Depending on the institution, you could apply online, by phone, in person or even by mailing an application. If you apply online, the process can take 10 to 20 minutes.
2. Gather your identification
For the application, you will likely need to provide your Social Security number (or tax ID number) and information from a government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license or passport number.
3. Provide contact details
Along with your ID number, expect to enter your contact information, including your first and last name, phone number and address — typically, you must be based in the United States. You may also be asked for information including your email address and date of birth.
4. Select a single or joint account
Let the institution know if you will be opening the account by yourself or with someone else. You’ll need the information from the previous steps for anyone else whose name will be on the account.
5. Accept the terms and conditions
This is where the bank asks you to confirm that you read disclosure documentation describing fees, liabilities and how account interest is calculated. Ideally, you have selected an account that earns high rates and has no or low monthly service charges. This is your chance to double check.
» Need to compare accounts? Read NerdWallet’s list of best savings rates.
6. Submit your application
You may get an acknowledgement within minutes when you apply online, but it can take between two and five business days for the bank to verify your information, open the account and give you access.
7. Fund your new account
Many banks require a minimum initial deposit, often from $25 to $100, but others have no minimum deposit requirement. Even if you don’t have to fund your account when you first open it, you’re better off depositing money sooner rather than later. That way, you’ll be able to start earning interest sooner.
You can typically transfer funds from an existing account at another bank or deposit via cash or check. You may also be able to schedule a wire transfer from another institution. Once you funded your account, consider setting up a direct deposit and scheduling automatic transfers from checking to savings, which will help your balance grow over time without much conscious effort on your part.
How to choose the best savings account
The best savings accounts charge few fees and earn high interest rates. This can help your balance grow faster. The average savings account earns just 0.33% APY, but some high-yield accounts earn much more. If you deposit $10,000 and leave it alone for a year, your money would earn around $200 in a high yield account with a 2% APY, compared to, say, around $10 in an account that earns a 0.10% rate.
It pays to shop around. Look beyond large institutions with thousands of branches. Online banks often offer high APYs with minimal fees. Many of them also have top-notch mobile apps that make it easier to manage your money on the go. See great options in NerdWallet’s list of best savings accounts.
Can I open a savings account online?
Yes. Opening an account online may be easier than traveling to a bank branch or calling a representative. Per the steps above, you will want to have all of your documentation available to finish your application.
What to do if you can’t open a savings account
Sometimes a bank may not approve an application. Issues such as unpaid bank fees and bounced checks in a past account may be reported to a consumer reporting agency, such as ChexSystems, and banks may consider this information when reviewing an application.
Customers who have a ChexSystems file and can’t open an account may want to look into “second chance” checking accounts. They are not savings accounts, and typically don’t pay high rates, but they do offer a chance to establish a good banking history. If successful, you may be able to open a regular bank account in about 12 months. Read NerdWallet’s article on what to do if you’re blocked from having a bank account to learn more.
Opening a savings account and committing to put away money on a regular basis is a good way to build a cash cushion. Your balance will grow over time, and with an account that has a high yield, you can ensure your hard-earned money is working hard for you.