If you follow my blog or my social media accounts, you’re aware that I recently changed banks. The process took me five months and I ended up paying about $50 in fees to do it. (I originally thought I paid $75 in fees, but one fee ended up getting refunded. Anyway, I digress…) Given that the whole point of this exercise was to stop giving money to my old bank, I found ponying up for these fees incredibly frustrating.
Looking back, I realize that, despite careful research, I made several mistakes along the way—expensive mistakes. Mistakes and unnecessary transactions come with fees attached, and the system is designed for consumers to make lots of mistakes.
Think about it: The changing banks process is already arduous enough. Add in a few fees, and you may get frustrated, angry, discouraged, and/or apathetic. (I’m guilty of the first three.) Worse yet, you may stay put or stop the changing banks process altogether.
Don’t! Persist and move your money to a bank or credit union that better aligns with your values. I’m here to share my experiences, step by step, so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.
Here’s my changing banks checklist so you can avoid fees, spend less time in the process, and preserve your sanity.
The Changing Banks Checklist
- Do your research and select a bank that aligns with your values.
- Open new accounts at your new bank.
- Activate your new debit/ATM card (if applicable) and order checks.
- Switch your paycheck direct deposit (if applicable) to your new bank.
- See if there are any fees to transfer funds from your old bank to your new bank, and make a plan to deposit/transfer money to minimize what you’ll pay in fees.
- Also consider the amount of time it takes for the transfers themselves in your plan to avoid fees (e.g., my old bank charged $3 for a three-day transfer; deposited checks were free and typically took a day or two to clear).
- Make a list of all your bills and services that were paid from your old account, including utilities, credit cards, magazine subscriptions, insurance payments, retirement savings, recurring donations, smartphone apps, etc.
- Once you have sufficient funds in your new account and/or a few paychecks have been deposited, go through your list of bills and services, one by one, and change each autopayment and/or electronic billing information over to your new bank account.
- Monitor your new and old accounts for approximately a month or two to make sure everything is migrating over as expected. Are your paychecks getting deposited to your new account? Are your recurring payments getting taken out of your new account? Are there any straggler bills or services getting paid from your old account? (If so, switch those over ASAP.)
- You’re almost ready to migrate everything over—but before doing so, double-check all old bills to make sure they’re set up with your new account, including the next scheduled payment. (I missed one auto pay bill and overdrew my account, leading to a hefty overdraft fee and having to scramble to transfer money back, which sucked.)
- When you’re confident you’ve covered all your bases, transfer the majority of your money from your old account to your new account, leaving enough funds to cover required minimum balances (if applicable) to avoid any fees.
- When this last transfer clears, call or make an appointment at your old bank to close your account.
- Close your account, request a cashier’s check or cash for any remaining funds from your old account, and deposit that in your new account.
- Shred your old debit card.
- Celebrate! You’ve successfully navigated an incredibly arduous process and migrated your money to a bank that supports your values. (I, for one, treated myself to a honey-dipped doughnut from Mariposa Bakery.)
A final thought: At first, I avoided many in-person conversations because I thought I could save time and money by doing things over the phone or online. Then, after receiving conflicting advice between my old bank’s customer service reps and the website experience—and paying fees for it—I ultimately decided to make an appointment and wrap everything up in person. The in-person meeting took all of 10 minutes and was actually the most pleasant, fee-free, and efficient interaction with my old bank.
(Yes, based on that last exchange, the irony of my new bank being all-online is not lost on me. However, from my experience thus far, they have outstanding customer service.)
Have you changed banks? Which steps did you take to do it? Share your expertise by leaving a comment!
Photo courtesy Rafael Gonzalez via Flickr Creative Commons