Have you been looking to open a bank account but have no money to get started? There are some ways to do it with no deposit required.
Opening a checking account with $0 eliminates one step of the normal account application process. And it may take only a few minutes to apply for the account from your phone or computer.
Yes, you can open a bank account with no deposit.
Many banks require you to make a deposit to establish an account. But some financial institutions let you delay this step.
You'll want to find a good free online checking account or a credit union with no opening deposit required. Then you will follow these steps to open a bank account.
You may know how to shop for fruit at the grocery store (pro tip: avoid bruised, blackened bananas) but feel less confident in the qualities to look for in a bank.
Clark recommends you find an online bank or a credit union that does not charge fees, does offer competitive interest rates and allows you easy access to your money.
You can search for a credit union online with this Credit Union Locator tool from the National Credit Union Administration.
Many “free” online accounts have at least some fees, but if you’re a responsible account holder, you can usually avoid them. For example, if you overdraw your account and leave a negative balance for months, you will likely get penalized for that.
In other cases, it's important to choose an account that fits your life: how often you plan to use the account, whether you plan to write a lot of checks and things like that. For example, an online bank with no minimum deposit may limit the number of free ATM transactions you can make each month.
I’ve spent some time researching the availability of free, no-deposit online bank accounts, and I’ve put together some options that fit the criteria I mentioned above. Money expert Clark Howard really likes the low fees and excellent service credit unions usually offer, so it’s a good idea to check with credit unions in your area as well.
For most people, opening a bank account online is a fast, simple process. Typically it’s even simpler if you are opening a free checking account with no deposit.
Follow these four steps to apply for your bank account. You can also read our story on how to open a bank account in six easy steps if you want more detail.
This article primarily addresses opening a checking account. You can also open a savings account with no initial deposit, but you’ll find fewer choices.
Checking and savings are the most common kinds of bank accounts.
Checking accounts allow you to receive direct deposits, make payments and withdraw cash from ATMs, among other things.
Savings accounts are designed to earn you interest on money you don’t plan to spend immediately while still giving you easy access to your funds.
There are three main categories of consumer banks.
Online Banks: They feature few if any physical branches. Online banks often pass the savings in overhead costs to customers in the form of fewer fees and higher interest rates, depending on the type of account you open. It can be harder to deposit cash with online banks, and it may be tough to get in touch with a human being if you need help with your account.
Credit Unions: Nonprofit, member-owned organizations that often serve specific communities. They tend to offer better interest rates and charge fewer fees, but there are fewer branches and financial offerings.
Traditional Banks: They offer the convenience of physical branches and ATMs as well as a full suite of financial services. The customer often pays more fees and earns less interest in exchange.
You can also open an account through a discount broker such as Charles Schwab. These accounts mirror the structure of online banks, but some discount brokers have physical branches.
Clark recommends online banks, discount brokers and credit unions because over traditional banks because they generally charge fewer fees and offer better interest rates.
To apply for an online checking account, you’ll want to have the following items nearby to ensure a smooth, fast a process:
- Home Address
- Date Of Birth
- Social Security Number or Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN)
- Driver's License or Government-Issued ID
- Previous Address (if you've moved within two years)
- Phone Number/Email Address
If you’re under 18, you’ll need a parent or custodian to agree to oversee your account. Or perhaps you’re opening a joint account with a family member or significant other. In either case, you’ll need the above information for every person who will be associated with your new account.
The application to open an account at an online bank can take just a few minutes as long as you have a phone or computer and the necessary documentation.
Your bank will take you through a series of prompts to verify your identity, confirm the specific product (account) you want and give you a chance to read the terms and conditions. You will type the required information into text fields inside of online forms.
It’s a good idea to read through the bank’s terms and conditions before agreeing. They typically include information about rules, fee structures and interest rates.
Opening a bank account with no deposit and maintaining a $0 balance indefinitely is like buying fishing gear without ever going near water or adding bait to the hook.
The details will vary, so check with your bank. But your account may get closed if you still haven’t deposited any money after some time — say, 30 days.
When you do fund your account, here are some of the ways to do it.
If you’re opening the account so you have a way to get paid by an employer, you can set up direct deposit and waiting on the money to roll in.
Your company probably has a direct deposit form that asks for information about your new bank account, such as the bank’s routing number and your account number. Your company may also ask for a voided check.
The human resources department usually will have that form and help you with any questions.
Maybe your grandmother mailed you a check for your birthday or your employer is paying you with a paper check.
You now have a check in your hand and you have an online bank account.
All three major categories of consumer banking include institutions that allow mobile deposits, but it’s a good idea to sort out what your bank offers before completing your application.
First you sign or “endorse” the back of the check. There may be a simple box or line that says “endorse here.”
Many bank apps and some websites offer “mobile deposit”: You take pictures of the front and back of the check on your phone, that gets uploaded, and your deposit is complete. On a website, you sometimes have the option to scan both sides of the check and submit the photos online.
Your bank should ask you to type in the amount of the check you’re depositing. The photos of the check need to be clear, and the back of your check needs to be endorsed.
Assuming you don’t have another account at a bank or credit union, you can ask a trusted friend or family member to help.
Give them cash and ask them to send you the money from their bank or credit union through a service like Zelle or Venmo. These services are free and you can link them to your online bank account.
Depositing cash into your online bank account can be less convenient than depositing at a credit union or traditional bank.
However, it is possible, usually through one of the three methods listed below. And which method(s) a bank offers may be a factor in choosing your bank.
- Use a linked ATM. If your online bank participates in an ATM network, look up the nearest location online. You can take your cash, fill out a deposit slip and deposit the money in the ATM.
- Use a prepaid debit card. If your online bank doesn't participate in an ATM network, you can get a prepaid debit card that's linked to your bank account. Participating retailers allow you to deposit cash to the card, which you can then transfer to your online bank account. Shop around for a good card to avoid paying fees.
- Buy a money order. This isn't the best option, as it will almost certainly come with a fee. But you can purchase a money order from a post office or retail store and mail it to the address your online bank provides for deposits.
You don’t need a deposit to open a bank account.
For most people, access to banking is a helpful, if not necessary, part of financial life.
There are plenty of options that allow you to open a free bank account online with no deposit. Just make sure that you review the terms carefully before choosing an account.
And don’t forget that Clark recommends that you check with your local credit union, as they often offer the best banking options.