Closing a bank account and opening a new one can be tricky. Banks like to keep customers, so they make the closing process complicated.
A Consumer Reports survey found one in five customers opted out of switching banks because of the effort—not to mention possible fees. But sometimes it has to be done. And it’s easier than you think.
Follow the three steps and you’ll be able to switch banks with as little stress as possible.
1. Find a new bank account first.
Open the new account before closing the old one. That way your automatic transactions can continue smoothly without a gap in between.
Go into the bank in person if you can, rather than opening an account over the phone (unless your bank is online). You’re more likely to get all your questions answered.
Although requirements vary depending on the bank, you’ll want to bring:
- An official photo ID—driver’s license, state ID, or passport.
- Your Social Security Number (you may not need your Social Security Card, unless the bank specifically asks for it).
- Cash, check, or payment info (routing and account number) for the opening deposit.
The minimum you’ll need to deposit will depend both on the bank and the type of account you’re setting up. If you’re looking for a low minimum amount, or no fee required to open an account, your best bet is an online checking or savings.
2. List and reroute 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 as soon as possible: this part may take a while if you have a lot of automatic transactions. It’s a good chance to review which services you’re spending money on (like video streaming services or memberships you forgot you had).
Here’s where your old bank statements come in handy. Get a list of your statements from the past year. Statements should be available online at your bank’s website if you don’t have paper copies.
This is a two-step process.
Look over the past 12 months of transactions. (Some automated transactions may be annual, so you might miss them in less than a year’s worth of statements.) Note when deposits show up in your account and when payments are automatically withdrawn.
Keep some cash in the old account until this step is complete. You want to avoid missing scheduled payments or getting hit with overdraft fees. If you’ve written checks recently or if payments are pending, keep the old account open and funded until those payments clear.
Once you know which deposits and payments to transfer, you can start switching them over to your new account.
If you get direct deposit from your employer, submit your new bank info (via a canceled check or just a routing and account number).
Reroute any automatic payments to your new account as soon as you can, since the change may take a few days or weeks to finalize. Some billers require notice up to a month in advance for new payment info.
3. Close the old account for good.
Read up on your bank’s procedures for closing an account first. Some banks will let you close an account by mail, online, or over the phone; some require you to show up in person.
This list collects info on how consumers successfully closed accounts at multiple American banks. But since procedures may change, your best bet is to ask the bank directly how it’s done.
We recommend closing the account in person if time and convenience allows. A bank visit makes it easier for you to get the transaction in writing. “Zombie accounts” sometimes come back from the dead—a closed account might get reactivated if you forgot to reroute an automatic payment or if there’s a billing error. To minimize the risk of a zombie account haunting you, ask for a letter from the bank stating you closed the account.
Even if you have no funds in the account, you still need to formally close it. You may be able to close an empty account online by following the instructions on the bank’s website.
If you have funds in the account you’re closing, the bank will usually write you a check for the amount of the balance, or just transfer funds to your new account. Your bank may require a formal written request (such as a notarized letter) to close an account with an open balance. You may also have to go to the bank in person to pick up the check. Give the money one to two business days to transfer. A wire transfer’s faster, but it costs more.
If you owe money on the account you’re closing, you won’t be able to shut it down until you pay the balance and any fees. The bank might close an account with a negative balance after a month or so, but don’t wait for this to happen—it will negatively impact your credit. You want a neat, clean closure.
Closing your bank account and opening a new one can be a pain, but if you take the right steps and make sure you do everything correctly, it doesn’t have to be a huge hassle.
If you’re wondering why you should switch banks in the first place, here’s five solid reasons you should consider finding a new one.