This post was updated October 23, 2017, with links to Money’s newest Best Banks winners.
Between monthly fees and ATM charges, banking with the wrong institution can cost you plenty. If you find yourself paying to keep an account—or you want better interest, or more flexible ATM rules—it’s time to find an account with better terms. Here’s how to make a move without a hitch.
Step 1: Set Your Priorities
Before you review Money’s Best Banks picks, consider what’s most important to you. Perhaps you’re an entry-level worker with a low balance; in that case, you’ll need a bank that won’t charge you a maintenance fee. If having bank branches or ATMs nearby is critical, you may want a big bank. If you travel overseas regularly, low foreign transaction fees and ATM reimbursements are critical.
Another question to consider: Does an online-only bank appeal to you? Or do you need physical branches to visit? Consider all of these things before you make a switch, Then check out Money’s Best Banks to find the one that fits your needs.
Step 2: Open a New Account
Open an account at your new institution. This requires a balancing act: Even if you’re planning to move all your assets eventually, you want to leave some money in your old account to cover bills during the transition; at the same time, though, you need to start your new account with enough money to meet any required minimums.
Notify your employer immediately to switch any direct deposits to your new account, says Sean McQuay, a banking expert at NerdWallet.
Step 3: Switch Your Bills
Go through a year’s worth of statements and make a list of all of the bills you pay automatically from your account, as well as any other direct deposits, McQuay suggests. Go through the list item by item, contacting each provider to make the switch. If you write paper checks, be sure all your outstanding ones have cleared. If older checks haven’t gone through yet, you may need to follow up with the recipient to be sure the payment hasn’t gone astray.
In case it takes a month or so for all the accounts to get switched over, leave enough in your old account so you hit the monthly minimum.
Step 4: Tie Up Loose Ends
Once you’ve confirmed that all of your deposits and payments have moved over, visit a physical branch of your old bank, if possible, and ask for a closing check and confirmation of the closure. (If you can’t visit in person, ask over the phone for written confirmation that the account has been closed.)
“You don’t want to empty the bank account on your own, and then call the bank to have them tell you, ‘Oh, you have one more check that’s processing’ or ‘one more bill [is] being paid,’” McQuay says.