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Banking

The 4 steps to finally switching banks for good—and possibly earning some easy cash

Moving your money to a different bank could mean scoring fewer fees and a welcome bonus.

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Raise your hand if you're still using the same bank account you've had since college.

Chances are, most people you know have actually been with the same bank for most of their adult life. In fact, the average U.S. adult tends to stick with the same bank for just over 14 years, a 2020 Bankrate survey found.

The loyalty many individuals have to their first-ever bank is certainly understandable. Once opening an account, you become comfortable and it's hard to bring yourself to go through the process of ever switching to a new bank. But going through the motions could be well worth it: You may be able to get an account with fewer fees and even score a welcome bonus just for being a new customer.

Here are the four steps to finally switching banks for good.

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1. Decide which bank best suits your needs

Nowadays, there are tons of banking options out there, including traditional brick-and-mortar banks as well as newer online banks. Consider the following when shopping around:

  • Minimum deposit requirements
  • Minimum daily balance requirements
  • Fees — or ways to avoid them, such as making direct deposits
  • How vast the ATM network is and if there are fees for using out-of-network ATMs
  • How much interest you'll earn
  • Mobile app features
  • If the account is FDIC-insured

At the very least, it's good to go with a bank that is FDIC-insured — meaning should the bank fail your deposits are protected and able to be reimbursed up to $250,000 — and that doesn't have a minimum daily balance requirement. The latter can be a real inconvenience since you'll be charged a fee if your daily balance falls below the minimum, which varies by bank account but can definitely add up.

The Capital One 360 Checking® is one example of an account that does not have a minimum daily balance requirement. Users can spend their money without worrying about getting hit with a fee if they happen to have, in this case, less than $100 in their account.

Capital One 360 Checking®

Capital One Bank is a Member FDIC.
  • Monthly maintenance fee

    $0

  • Minimum deposit to open

    $0

  • Minimum balance

    None

  • Annual Percentage Yield (APY)

    0.10%

  • Free ATM network

    70,000+ Capital One®, MoneyPass and Allpoint® ATMs

  • ATM fee reimbursement

    None

  • Overdraft fee

    $0

  • Mobile check deposit

    Yes

Terms apply.

If you're looking to earn interest on your balance (which not all checking accounts offer), the Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking lets you earn 1.00% APY as long as you have a recurring monthly electronic deposit and opt-in to receive paperless statements.

Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking

Alliant Credit Union is a Member NCUA.
  • Monthly maintenance fee

    $0

  • Minimum deposit to open

    $25 when opening online or over the phone

  • Minimum balance

    None

  • Annual Percentage Yield (APY)

    0.25% with paperless and recurring monthly electronic deposit

  • Free ATM network

    80,000+ Alliant network ATMs

  • ATM fee reimbursement

    Up to $20 per month

  • Overdraft fee

    $0

  • Mobile check deposit

    Yes

Terms apply.

Then there are those checking accounts that incentivize new customers by offering a welcome bonus for opening an account and depositing funds or for opening and setting up direct deposit.

For example, when you open up a SoFi Checking and Savings, you can receive a welcome bonus of up to $300 with direct deposit. The Chase Total Checking® provides a $300 bonus when you open a Chase Total Checking® account and make direct deposits totaling $500 or more within 90 days of coupon enrollment (offer ends 7/24/24). By doing what you would likely already be doing with a checking account in the first place — adding money and scheduling direct deposit — both of these offers essentially give you a little windfall of cash.

2. Open your new account

Once you decide which bank you'd like to go with, it's time to finally open your new account. You should be able to simply do this online or by visiting an in-person branch near you. You'll need to provide some personal information such as your full name, address, contact, photo ID and Social Security.

Keep in mind that if the bank you choose requires a minimum deposit to open the account, you'll need to be ready to transfer those funds into the account immediately upon opening it.

3. Move your cash to your new account

After opening your new account, you can start migrating your money out of the old one. If your former account doesn't have a minimum daily balance requirement or any other fees associated with keeping an available balance, go ahead and transfer the entire balance over to your new account by electronically initiating a transfer, or by simply following the transfer process as stated by your old bank.

If your old account does have a minimum balance requirement, keep enough cash in there to cover it until it's time to notify the bank that you'll be closing the account. This way, the bank can waive the fee. Keep in mind that your old bank may have its own unique procedure for helping you switch to a new bank. Ask upfront about how it works and whether there is any paperwork that needs to be filled out.

You'll want to make note of any direct deposits you had set up with your old account, such as automatic paychecks from your employer. Update your new bank information with the relevant direct deposit information as soon as you can. Any former automated recurring payments, like for subscriptions and bills, or transfers, such as to a savings account, should also be set up with your new checking account.

Lastly, you may want to download or print out copies of your old bank statements in case any issues with past transactions were to arise after you close the account. In this case, you'll already have the statements handy and won't need to contact your old bank to provide them.

4. Close your old account

Visit or call your bank to see if there are any specific procedures for transferring and fully closing your old bank account. Once you're ready, meaning all deposits and transfers have been reset to go in and out of your new account, you can finally close your old bank account. You might also consider asking for an official letter from your old bank stating that the account has been closed. This could come in handy in the future if you ever need to resolve any past issues.

And don't make the mistake when closing your bank account of leaving an outstanding balance, such as an overdraft fee, that you never paid. Doing so could eventually impact your credit score if the bank were to report this owed debt to a collection agency.

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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