Four myths about opening a bank account

People are afraid they’ll screw it up. We help you to not do that.

Fear is a bad advisor.

Fear is a bad advisor.


We know it’s been a while since some of you have opened up a bank account. Maybe you’ve only done it once or twice in your lifetime.

Just like anything you do infrequently, the thought of opening up a new bank account might make you feel a bit anxious.

We’ve written down four myths you may have and then unpack them.

Myth #1: I have to visit a bank in person to open a checking, savings or CD account.

Truth: You can open up an account from your living room couch.

If visiting a bank branch sounds like the last thing you’d ever want to do, good news: hundreds of banks offer online account opening. So you can open your account in between ordering take-out and shopping for shoes.

For banks that don’t yet offer online account opening, many let you open up an account over the phone.

Myth #2: It takes eons to open up a bank account.

Truth: It can take as little as 15 minutes.

You can open a bank account online in about 15 minutes. Some banks advertise times as low as 5 minutes.

Considering the amount of time the average person spends on the internet browsing different ways to cook noodles, that’s a tiny chunk of your day.

Opening an account in person can take longer, more like 20 minutes, which is a lot shorter than eons.

Myth #3: I need to ready a ton of paperwork prior to opening a bank account.

Truth: In most cases, it’s like getting your driver’s license. You’ll need a government-issued ID, a social security number, and your current/previous address(es).

You do not need every single document that proves your existence.

Banks do have to abide by regulations to make sure you are exactly who you say you are. (This is good for everyone.) This can usually be accomplished with a government ID and a social security number, and knowledge about your previous addresses.

Online, you’ll usually have to answer a few more questions to prove you are who you say you are.

If you plan to walk into a bank, call the bank in advance to confirm what’s needed.

Myth #4: I have to transfer everything over from my old bank to open an account with a new bank.

Truth: You can have multiple bank accounts.

You don’t need to close your old bank accounts to open up a new account with a new bank. Many people use 2 or 3 or more banks for different purposes: one for checking, one for savings, one for a CD. One for a loan. One for its special interest rate offer. Mighty helps you do all of this while asking yourself: is some of my money supporting places and causes I believe in? Other people are asking this of themselves, and if you want to, too, start browsing banks.

So fear not! If you have more questions, considering giving a bank a call and talking to someone. When you call a community-focused bank, you’ll find that the experience of talking with staff there is more like talking with someone at a community-based organizations rather than a call center, so the chances are high you’ll talk to a knowledgeable person versus a robot. Many banks would love to receive your call, especially if you identify yourself as someone who values the mighty financing they’re doing.

And because we don’t like to dish advice we wouldn’t take, below are the accounts of two Mighty team members taking our own advice and reporting back what happened.

From Noa, in Chicago:

# of accounts opened: 1

Method of account opening: Visited a branch

Documents needed: Drivers license and utility bill

Minimum Deposit: $200

Fees: None

Time spent opening account: 31 minutes

Part that took the most effort: Traveling to the bank

Reflections and highlights: I walked into the bank with the confidence of an almost college graduate pretending to be an adult and a teller saw me right away. I told the teller, let’s call him Mark, that I’d like to open a savings account and he brought me over to his desk and had me fill out a small form. Mark typed away on his computer while I sat quietly, now much less nervous in part to the calming tune of ‘DJ Got Us Falling In Love’ by Usher playing in the background. I left with instructions on how to download the bank’s app (where I could digitally deposit checks) and clear information on other accounts and potential fees. Now that my account is opened, I still use my favorite apps, just a different routing number. I previously felt this feel-good-buzz when I donated to a cause or bought something with a sustainable label. Now I feel this daily without spending but saving. I’m in control of my money.”

From Sophia, in Seattle:

# of accounts opened: 2

Method of account opening: Online

Documents needed: Driver’s license

Minimum Deposit: $100

Fees: None

Time spent opening account: 16 minutes per account (32 minutes)

Part that took the most effort: Deciding which two new banks I wanted to use

Reflections and highlights:  “I opened two new savings accounts, at two different banks, both of which I had never contacted before, in 32 minutes. Without leaving my house. Still wearing PJs. Including the occasional disruption from my cat’s inexplicable desire to walk across my laptop keyboard.  Both of the banks I chose are out of state. I don’t plan on visiting them in person, ever. I don’t need to. I can access this money digitally. My primary plan is to just let my money stay there and earn interest while I feel good about how the bank is using it. After I see how I like the banks, I might open more accounts with them, and/or make them my primary banks.”

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