Closing a bank account and opening a new one can be tricky.
Banks like to retain customers, so they make it difficult to close.
The “hassle factor” or the million and one little things you need to do before the task is completed is one of the main reasons people don’t change banks. Another reason is that people don’t feel like they know enough about other account options.
Breaking down the process into steps can help. All in all, it’s easier than you think. And saving money or convenience is usually worth it.
Follow these three steps and you will be able to switch banks with minimal stress.
1. Find a new bank account first
Open a new account before closure of the old This way, your automated transactions can continue smoothly without a break in between.
If you haven’t chosen a new bank yet, check out the requirements, benefits, and fees of the various banks. Here is what you want to find:
- Services of the new bank, which are not in the old one. These can be simple settings like an easier-to-use mobile app, or basic financial services like CDs and retirement accounts.
- Interest rates. If you’re changing your savings account, compare the interest rate you’re getting on your current account with what you might get with the new account. Some banks also offer interest-bearing checking accounts.
- convenience factor. Can you navigate the new bank’s website? How easy is it for you to find and use their ATMs? How quickly can you set up auto-pay or other day-to-day transactions?
- Customer support options. Ideally, you’re looking for a bank or credit union that makes it easy to get in touch with a representative if you need help and gives you contact options that you’ll actually use. For example, if you hate talking on the phone, your new bank might have an email or chat feature.
Other factors will vary from person to person, such as:
- your future needs. If you’re hoping your new bank will give you a mortgage or help you open investment accounts in the future, find a place that offers these services.
- Your banking style. Some people like online banking. Others want to meet a real person in a regular branch for big deals.
- your local options. Many people choose to join a local credit union that is owned by customers rather than a national bank. Credit unions and smaller banks also have other perks, such as better interest rates on loans for members.
Another benefit of switching banks is that banks often reward new customers. This means that you may be eligible for a cash bonus, temporary interest rate reduction, or other bonuses when you open a new checking or savings account.
Check out our current selection of the best checking account promotions and savings account promotions.
If possible, contact the bank in person rather than opening an account by phone (unless your bank is online). You are more likely to get all your questions answered and be able to directly ask about these potential bonuses.
While requirements vary by bank, you must bring:
- Official photo ID for example, a driver’s license, state ID, or passport.
- Your social security number (You may not need your Social Security card unless the bank specifically requests one.)
- Cash, check or billing information (routing and account number) to open a deposit.
The minimum you will need to deposit will depend on both the bank and the type of account you are creating.
If you are looking for a low minimum amount or no account opening fees, online check or savings is your best bet.
Read more: Online banking vs traditional banking
2. List and redirect any automatic transactions from your old bank.
Now that you have a new bank account, it’s time to transfer your regular deposits and withdrawals. Start ASAP: This part can take a while if you have a lot of automated transactions. This is a good opportunity to see what services you spend money on (for example, video streaming services or subscriptions that you forgot about).
This is where your old bank statements come in handy. Get a list of your applications for the last year. Statements should be available online on your bank’s website unless you have paper copies.
This is a two step process.
Step 1: View transactions for the last 12 months.
Some automatic transactions may be annual, so you may miss them in less than a year. Pay attention when deposits appear in your account and when payments are automatically withdrawn.
Keep some money in the old account until this step is complete. You don’t want to miss scheduled payments or receive overdraft fees. If you have recently written checks or have payments due, keep the old account open and fund it until those payments are made.
Step 2: Switch your deposits and payments
Once you know which deposits and payments need to be transferred, you can start transferring them to your new account.
If you are receiving a direct deposit from your employer, please submit new bank information (via a canceled check or just the itinerary and account number).
Redirect any automatic payments to your new account as soon as possible, as it can take days or weeks for changes to take effect. Some billers require monthly notification of new billing information.
Read more: How to set up direct deposit
3. Close the old account permanently
First, review your bank’s account closing procedures. Some banks allow you to close your account by mail, online or over the phone; some require you to appear in person.
This list collects information on how consumers have successfully closed their accounts at several US banks. But since procedures may change, it is best to ask the bank directly how this is done.
Close the account in person if possible
I recommend closing the account in person if time and convenience permit.
Visiting the bank makes it easier to get the transaction in writing. “Zombie accounts” sometimes come back from the dead – a closed account can be reactivated if you forgot to redirect an automatic payment or there was a billing error. To minimize the risk of being stalked by a zombie account, ask for a letter from the bank stating that you have closed your account.
Even if you do not have funds in the account, it still needs to be officially closed. You can close an empty account online by following the instructions on the bank’s website.
Make sure you have received all the money from your account
If you have funds in an account that you are closing, the bank will usually write you a check for the amount of the balance, or simply transfer the funds to your new account.
Your bank may require a formal written request (such as a notarized letter) to close an open balance account. You may also need to go to the bank in person to collect the check. Give the money one to two business days for transfer. Bank transfer is faster but more expensive.
Make sure that closing your account will not affect your credit score!
If you are in arrears on an account that you are closing, you will not be able to close it until you have paid the balance and any fees.
The bank may close an account with a negative balance in about a month, but don’t wait for this to happen – it will negatively affect your credit. You want a neat, clean closure.
When should you change bank accounts?
You pool finances with a partner
In a serious relationship where you decide to split the costs, a joint bank account can save you money and time (many people pool accounts after getting married or entering a domestic partnership).
You can combine finances in a brand new account, or join your partner’s existing account if their bank has more services you need.
Read more: How to merge bank accounts after marriage
The fees are too high
With so many banks offering free checking accounts and cutting fees on high-yielding savings accounts, you don’t have to stick with a bank that hoards fees.
For example, if you continue to receive overdraft fees despite your best intentions, look for a bank with minimal (or zero!) overdraft fees (or a bank with no minimum balance requirements). Similarly, if you use cash frequently, choose a bank with a free ATM.
Read more: How to stop paying ATM fees
The features of another bank are better suited to your needs
It is normal for financial situations and priorities to change, and your banking needs may change with them.
Whether you want an account that connects to a budgeting app, offers a significantly higher interest rate over time, rewards you for better credit, works with bad credit, or allows you to complete all of your transactions online, there are plenty of options if your current account is missing the features you need.
The bank is not insured by the FDIC
Most banks and other financial institutions have insurance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) that protects your money up to $250,000 in the event of a bank failure. (They have mentioned FDIC coverage somewhere on their website, or you can see which banks are covered here). Lack of FDIC coverage is a red flag for safety.
you are moving
If you’re moving and your current bank doesn’t have physical branches near your new location, it’s often more convenient to switch—either to a large bank with branches around the world, a local bank in your new area, or an online bank.
You disagree with your bank’s values
Social responsibility is important to many consumers, and if your bank supports a cause or makes a decision that you don’t agree with, you can put your money where your values are.
For this reason, I switched from a national bank to a local bank without any problems (it wasn’t even embarrassing when I told the cashier at my former bank why I switched).
Read more: What you need to know about socially responsible banks
Pros and cons of changing bank account
- Potential cost savings. Your new bank may offer a higher savings account interest rate or lower fees than your old bank. After a while, you will begin to notice that savings are increasing.
- Possible bonuses for registration. You can take advantage of any one-time bonuses or financial rewards your new bank offers as a “thank you” to new customers.
- The best fit for your needs. You may have finally switched to online banking (no branch visits!) or to a local bank near your home (fewer offline ATM fees!). In any case, a bank that suits your lifestyle and preferences is the best choice.
- Transfers of direct deposits and auto payments. This part of changing bank accounts takes some time and energy, especially if you have a lot of monthly auto-pay bills.
- Less dating. You know less about the procedures of the new bank, and they know less about you – for example, about your credit history. This means that the approval process may take longer if you need a loan or an additional account with a new bank.
- Search fees in small print. Banks and credit unions must communicate in advance any fees they charge. But when you open a new account or close an old one, you get a lot of information at once. Fee information can be easily missed if you’re not looking for it.
Closing your bank account and opening a new one can be painful, but if you take the right steps and make sure you’re doing everything right, it shouldn’t be a big deal.
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