There are so many options for consumers when it comes to banking these days. There’s the old, stodgy standby, the traditional brick-and-mortar bank your grandmother used, the credit union your government employed uncle used, and then there’s the future: online banking. With so many viable options available to you, there is absolutely no reason to stay with a bank you don’t like (or that doesn’t like you). If you haven’t tried online banking, consider doing what I’ve done and perform your banking 100% online.
Why switch banks anyway?
There are a lot of reasons you might consider switching banks:
- Your current bank doesn’t know what “rewards” are (like PerkStreet!).
- Your current bank gets trounced on CD rates.
- Your current bank gets pummeled on savings rates.
- Your current bank stinks at customer service.
- Your current bank’s fees are out of control.
- You’ve moved and your old bank isn’t in your new city.
- You’ve recently gotten married and need a joint account.
How to make the switch
1. First ask yourself two questions:
- What is it about your currently bank that drives you crazy? ATM fees, poor customer service, penalties and fees everywhere you turn?
- What are you looking for in your next bank that you aren’t getting now? Rewards like what PerkStreet offers, greater security, better interest rates on your savings or CDs?
The answers will go a long way in helping you to determine what’s important in your banking relationship.
2. Next, decide which bank BEST meets your individual needs and which one(s) do not. Then open and fund your account or accounts (checking and savings) at the new bank. If you use Ally Bank, it’s really easy since they have no minimum on their opening deposits.
3. After your new accounts are funded, switch your direct deposits and automatic payments to your new bank. From that point on, write any checks from your new account. This will begin the real process of turning your new account into your primary one.
4. At this point, update your checking account information for any linked online accounts, such as credit cards or money transfer accounts like PayPal.
5. Wait for checks and other payments to clear at your old bank. Don’t be in a hurry to close your old bank account and definitely don’t move all your money out. Why? If there are any outstanding checks or automatic payments you forgot about, they WILL bounce. As a matter of fact, it’s a good idea to leave some cash in your old account, waiting 30 days after you’ve switched everything over. We want to make sure we didn’t forget anything and we want to make sure other financial institutions changed over their account info in a timely manner.
6. Only after ALL outstanding checks have cleared and ALL scheduled payments have been transferred to your new account should you close your old bank account. Simply contact the bank by email, phone, mail or in person and let them know you’d like to close your account. The bank will cut you a check for your remaining balance, or you can link your old checking account to your new one and transfer the funds out electronically. If your old account has a minimum account balance requirement, it may be safer to let the bank cut you a check so you don’t risk incurring any fees.
Switching a bank account is easy
Easy IF you’ve maintained records about your outstanding checks and automatic deposits. Before you make the switch, go ahead and open your new account, but closely examine your old account’s statements so you don’t forget about scheduled payments for things like:
- Insurance (car, life, health, disability, etc)
- Mortgage or lease payments
- Automatic transfers into other accounts (savings, Christmas Club, etc)
- Automatic payments to creditors (credit cards, car loans, doctors, dentists, home equity loans, etc)
- Dues for Scouts, Rotary, Kiwanis, or any other social organization
- Other services you pay for on automatic payments
It might be a good idea to go over your account with a fine toothed comb, stretching back up to a year, just to make sure you haven’t left anything off. When I’ve changed banks in the past, I always left a small amount of money in the old account … about $50, just in case, until I’ve gone through at least one bank account cycle.