Credit & Debt

Switch to a Bank With Lower Fees

Follow these steps to ensure a smooth transition.

Bank customers fed up with fees are showing their dissatisfaction with their feet: Some 10% switched banks last year, according to the 2012 J.D. Power and Associates Retail Banking Study. Most of the traffic is from big banks to small banks and credit unions, where fees (and, often, the employees) are friendlier. If you’re ready to act, here’s what you need to do.

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Open your new account, but don’t close your old account yet. With an account and bank routing number, you can arrange for direct deposit of your paycheck, Social Security benefits or pension. Give the authorization form to your employer or whoever sends the check. Go to www.godirect.gov to update Social Security, VA or other federal benefits. (If you get those benefits by paper check, you’ll have to switch to electronic payment by next March.)

Don’t forget to switch any other automatic deposits, such as a monthly check from your brokerage, as well as any automatic debits. Some experts recommend keeping both bank accounts open for at least three months to make sure all the changes are made.

Most banks have a switch kit with a form for each task. Citibank even offers a “Balance Your Account” form that helps you calculate how much money to leave in your old account to cover outstanding checks. If you are overwhelmed by the task, a bank employee should be willing to offer a hand.

This article first appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. For more help with your personal finances and investments, please subscribe to the magazine. It might be the best investment you ever make.

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