Credit Card Andy

Teaching the Basics of Personal Finance

Take Control of Your Money - How to Open a New Bank Account

You know why you should switch bank accounts. You also know what to look for when switching. But how do you switch banks?

I’ve received this question several times already from readers. I get it. It’s a scary thought moving a large sum of money.

I’m here to give you a sense of how one actually switches banks. Armed with this information, you’ll feel confident in switching banks if you so choose.

Spoiler: it’s very easy, low-risk, and there’s virtually no downside.

Don’t fall into the bank’s trap

Chances are, you’ve only known one bank your entire life. Banks rely on the fact that you are likely to open an account at the same bank as your parents early on. They give you a very forgiving student account with no fees. After you’ve graduated, they yank the rug from underneath you and upgrade your account to a standard one with more fees. At that point they’ve had you as an account holder for several years and you stay with them out of comfort.

If you are striving to be financially independent and do not rely on regular bank transfers from a relative, then it’s time you picked the account that does the most for you. That could mean an internet bank, a credit union, or an account at one of the well-known, big banks.

If you are looking to move your money from one account to another, this is the post for you.

What you need

  • Social Security Number
  • The minimum required deposit (some are $0)

Where do I start?

Note: For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to talk about opening a savings account at an internet bank. Just know that opening a checking account is pretty much the exact same process. Researching and applying for a credit union may require a little more work depending on their requirements (but it could also be worth it).

Go to the website of your chosen bank and apply online. You will want the regular savings account. Some offer an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) savings account, but we’re not interested in that right now.

Throw in your personal details. This is where it asks for your Social Security Number.

It will also ask you to make an opening deposit. If they don’t have a minimum opening deposit, you can put in $0. If there is a requirement, it’s typically around $100. Don’t worry, this is still your money. They just want to make sure you put some of your money in the account.

And that’s it! I can’t say I’ve applied for all the bank accounts out there, but that’s typically it. There may be some sort of waiting period to verify information or it may be instant.

Once inside, all you do is link your old account to your new one via ACH (stands for Automated Clearing House). You’ll need the account and routing number of your old account. You can setup this link in either your new or old account.

For example, Ally does not charge a fee for me pulling money from my BofA account via ACH. However, BofA charges me for sending money from my BofA to Ally via ACH. Same result, but one has a fee. Pick the one that does not charge you a fee.

You’re linked and ready to go. If you thought it’d be a lot of work, it’s not.

Take things slowly

[caption id=”attachment_695” align=”aligncenter” width=”300”]

  • _Don’t do anything with your primary account. _Open this new account alongside your current account. There’s nothing that says you can’t have two accounts at the same time.
  • Deposit the bare minimum needed to open the account (or make a small initial deposit if they didn’t require one from you during the application). Make sure everything goes through smoothly before really committing to this new account. You could find that you hate their interface with a passion, in which case you’ll try another bank without interruption in your day-to-day life.
  • This is more applicable to a checking account than a savings account: Don’t move all your money at once. If you like the account and things went without a hitch, don’t make the mistake of moving all of your money at once. It takes a couple business days to transfer money and you will not have access to that money while it’s en route. You could move half of it and then move the other half after the first transfer has gone through. That way you can use your new account while the rest of your money is being moved over.

The downside?

Barring a freak mishap at the bank, your money is safe. The banks will not lose your money during the transfer, your money is safe from bankruptcy as long as its FDIC insured, and you are allowed to open and close as many bank accounts as you’d like.

If you give another bank a shot and don’t like it, you can move that money to another institution or even back to your old one with no penalty. Unlike credit cards, this has no bearing on your financial health.

My experience

As you may know, I currently have an internet savings and checking account at two different banks. Right now, these banks work well for me. If I find that I need to regularly deposit cash in the future, I might give up the awesome benefits of my current checking account. Something tells me this won’t be the case (at least for a while).

Once you’ve overcome the initial psychological hurdle of moving banks, I think you’ll see it’s not that bad. Take control of your finances and don’t let your comfort zone get in the way of you making the most of your money.