Opening a checking account can mean something different for everyone. Maybe you're a teen taking the first real step toward financial independence. Perhaps you're a self-employed person opening your first business checking account. Whatever the case, knowing how long it takes to open a checking account can help you plan.
The timelines vary depending on whether you opt to open the account online or in person, as well as other factors.
Your chosen bank will impact how long it takes to open a checking account.
Every bank has its own policy on availability after opening a checking account. Citizens Bank customers can open an account that has anywhere from immediate to 48-hour availability. This is just one example. There are numerous banks across the country—from nationwide corporations to local establishments.
Contact your preferred bank's customer service to find out the policy on how long it takes to open a checking account and be able to use the funds.
Difference between opening a checking account in person and online
Many banks have different policies depending on whether you choose to open an account in person or online. Rolling with the Citizens Bank example, checking accounts that people open in person at one of its branches are available immediately. Any accounts opened online take 48 hours to verify. This likely has to do with identification security. It tends to be easier to confirm someone's identity in person.
Ensure that all your documents are in order for a seamless process.
Your checking account opening timeline could get stalled if you provide incorrect documentation, like wrong information on your personal forms or insufficient forms of identity. If you need to open a checking account quickly (or simply want to be able to access your funds in a timely manner), you should review the required documents and prepare them before beginning the account application process.
If you're opening the account in person, you'll want to come equipped with a folder full of the necessary information. When online, be sure to save your documents and information ahead of time.
While not a document, be sure that you're funding the account (to the minimum balance, if applicable) in order to put your checking account on the fast track.
Receiving a debit card after opening a checking account
Funding the account is one thing. You'll also want to receive the debit card that corresponds with your new checking account. The debit card will get mailed to your residence or place of work. Most banks say that you'll receive your debit card 7–10 business days after your account is approved. You might need to fund your account before the bank mails the debit card (for example, with Charles Schwab).
If you're going on a trip or starting your business, you'll want to allow a few weeks for the whole process, including debit card distribution.