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Opening a savings account is a quick and easy process. In most cases, you can do it from your home. To make the process even easier, make sure you have all the documents and information needed to open a savings account.
Checklist: What you need to open a savings account
Before you compare accounts at different banks and credit unions, here’s what you’ll need for your application:
- Government-issued ID: A driver’s license or passport.
- Social Security Number: Some banks will accept an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) if you don’t have a Social Security number.
- Date of birth.
- Proof of address: This can be a utility bill, credit card statement or other verified document with your name and address on it.
- Contact information.
- Bank account information: Many banks will require an initial deposit, so have your account and routing number from your checking account. If you’re opening the account online, you may be able to fund it using a peer-to-peer payment service, like Zelle or PayPal.
Things to consider when opening your savings account
Consider a few key factors to find a savings account that will fit your needs and help you grow your money.
Look for financial institutions that offer deposit insurance. Banks should be insured through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), while credit unions are insured through the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).
Most institutions insure up to $250,000 in an individual savings account in the unlikely event that the institution fails.
When you save, you pay yourself. Depending on where you open a high-yield savings account, the bank or credit union will also pay you, too, with interest.
While most big banks are offering savings rates under 0.1 percent APY, many other high-yielding banks — often online banks — currently have savings accounts with rates over 4 percent APY and charge little to no fees. A year ago that gap in yields would have been unprecedented, but it’s an opportunity to consider taking advantage of while rates are still up.
Think of it this way: You’re walking down the street, and you see a penny, a dime and a quarter. If you can only pick up one, it won’t be the penny.
You will likely have a range of saving needs. With that in mind, compare the functionality of different savings accounts.
For example, some banks offer the convenience of creating sub-savings accounts that can make a big difference with your mental accounting. One sub-account might be named “vacation fund” while another is “tuition fund.” This can help you distinguish between saving for different purposes.
Expert advice: How to maximize your savings account
Make putting money into your savings account part of a regular routine. Ask your employer to direct deposit a portion of your regular paycheck into your savings account, or automate monthly transfers from your checking account. Either way, you’ll benefit from a set-it-and-forget-it strategy that allows you to save without even thinking.
If you’re young and start saving between 10 and 15 percent of your paychecks, you’re going to set yourself up for success in the long run. As your earnings increase over the course of your professional career, that 10 to 15 percent amount becomes more meaningful and allows you to save a significant chunk of money.
It’s also important to identify unexpected opportunities to grow your savings. Those can be big chunks like a tax refund or a gift, or they can be as small as the money you save by using coupons. Anytime you wind up with some surprise cash, it’s time to think about how to put it away — instead of how to spend it.
Finally, regularly re-evaluate your needs. Know that the base layer of your savings — your emergency fund — should evolve, depending on your age. A buffer of six months of expenses will have a different number when you’re a single 20-something than when you’re 55 with kids in college. The target for your saving will always be moving. Make sure you’re adjusting your strategy to maintain the cushion you need to cover any unplanned costs.
Opening a savings account doesn’t require much work whether it’s an online or traditional bank account, as long as you come to your local branch with documents prepared or have them ready to upload or enter if applying online. What typically requires more work is the research you put into finding the right account. But it pays to find the best savings account to suit your needs and earn an attractive rate.
Greg McBride, CFA, is Bankrate’s chief financial analyst. As a personal finance expert, he is regularly quoted in the media for his in-depth commentary and practical advice to consumers.
Bankrate’s René Bennett contributed to an update of this story.