A savings account gives you the option of stashing your money away from your checking account — whether it’s for a short-term goal like saving up for a certain item or a long-term place to hold your emergency fund.
The first step before you can set your cash aside is opening an account. To get started, find out what information you’ll need to provide and what steps you’ll need to take.
What To Consider Before Opening a Savings Account
You have plenty of options to choose from when selecting a savings account, from traditional savings accounts at your local bank to high-yield options offered by online financial institutions.
Before you open an account, compare different banks and the types of savings accounts they offer. Consider the following factors to help you determine which bank best suits your needs:
Factors To Consider When Choosing a Bank
- Interest rates
- The higher the interest rate, the more money your balance earns. Compared to traditional brick-and-mortar banks, online banks often offer higher interest rates.
- Access to money
- Since online banks don’t have physical branches, you’ll have to find a local ATM or wait for a bank-to-bank transfer to go through when you want to withdraw cash.
- Fees and balance requirements
- Find out whether you have to maintain a minimum balance to avoid a monthly service charge.
- Look for other fees that take away from your savings, such as excess withdrawal fees.
What Do You Need To Open a Savings Account?
You’ll need to have the following documents and information when opening a savings account:
- Driver’s license, passport or military ID
- Proof of physical address
- Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number
Keep in mind that most banks will ask you to present two forms of identification when you apply for a new account.
If you’re opening a joint savings account, you’ll also have to provide personal details for all account holders.
How To Open a Savings Account
The steps to open a savings account are straightforward, and you can even open a savings account online from a computer or mobile device.
In some cases, however, you might need to open the savings account in person, such as if you have a limited credit history, have had issues with your checking history or want to deposit a large sum of money.
The process of opening a savings account typically involves the following steps:
Steps To Open a Savings Account
- Compare banks’ interest rates and fees to help you decide where to open an account.
- Gather your driver’s license or other government-issued ID and proof of residence.
- Apply for an account by visiting a branch or the bank’s website.
- Make an initial deposit if required.
Here’s a closer look at what you’ll need to do to open a savings account.
1. Choose a Bank To Open an Account With
When comparing your options, consider which banks offer the highest interest rates so you can make the most of your money.
Make sure to select an option that offers access to your money when you need it — whether it’s via an electronic transfer, a local branch or an ATM.
In addition to looking at interest rates, review each bank’s fee schedule to help you find the bank that best meets your needs. If you have a tight budget, look for a bank that doesn’t have a minimum balance requirement and charges no maintenance fees.
2. Gather Your Personal Information
Have your driver’s license or other government-issued ID on hand when you’re ready to apply. You’ll also need to provide these details:
- Social Security number or ITIN
- Contact information, including your name, address, phone number and email address
- Account information if needed for opening deposit
Some banks may also ask for proof of residence, such as a copy of your lease or a utility bill in your name.
3. Apply Online or in Person
To open an account online, begin by filling out the application at your preferred bank’s website. You’ll have to provide personal details, including your name, address and contact information, to get started. Then follow the prompts to move through each section of the application.
Alternatively, you may find it easier to open an account at a local branch. Bring your documentation and your initial deposit with you.
4. Fund the Account
After the bank approves your application, you can deposit money into the account through an electronic transfer or by using a check, debit card or money order, depending on what options your bank offers. The minimum opening deposit amount varies by bank, with some banks choosing not to require one at all.
Savings Account Alternatives
If a traditional savings account isn’t right for you or you’re looking to get a better return on your investment, consider the following alternatives.
Certificate of Deposit
Certificates of deposit often offer higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts but have greater restrictions.
One thing to note about using a CD is that your money will typically be locked in the account until the maturity date. If you withdraw funds early, you could incur a penalty.
Money Market Accounts
A money market account can be a good alternative if you’re looking for a higher interest rate.
Money market accounts come with some features of checking accounts, namely checking writing and debit card use. Since you have easy access to the money, this type of account works well for an emergency fund.
Is It the Right Time To Open a Savings Account?
There’s no good or bad time to open a savings account, but you’ll likely need one as soon as you’re ready to start saving toward a financial goal. You can even open a savings account for your children. Doing so helps them establish a saving habit and learn other important personal finance lessons.
Michael Keenan contributed to the reporting for this article.
This article has been updated with additional reporting since its original publication.