Telling your bank it’s over

How to close a bank account—when you would rather just avoid it

There are certain relationships that have an expiration date. And the one with your bank may be on the list. But there’s no need to stress about it. If you’re ready to move on, the process can be simple, painless and maybe even empowering.

If you’ve been putting off making the switch, it’s understandable. You might be wondering how to close a bank account online, how long it takes to close a bank account or if closing a bank account affects your credit score. The average U.S. adult holds onto their checking account for 14 years.1 So lots of other people may have the same questions.

Ready to close that bank account?

Your reasons for wanting to close a bank account could be many. Maybe you’re getting married and considering a joint account. Perhaps you’re unhappy with your bank’s fees, services or features. (It’s not you, it’s them.) Or maybe you just need a fresh start. Hey, it’s your money and you can put it wherever you like.

Whatever your reasons, having a step-by-step guide on how to close a bank account can help you through the process. Wouldn’t it be nice if all break-ups came with guidebooks?

Step 1: Open an account at your new bank

It’s not coldhearted; it’s just common sense. After all, you need a new place for your money to settle in before closing its old place of residence.

If you get paid by direct deposit, you’ll want to give your employer your new account information as soon as possible because it can take a few weeks for your paycheck to be rerouted.

In the meantime, you can continue paying bills and taking care of other financial needs using your old account. Keeping both accounts open during the transition can help you avoid any potential pitfalls of being without a bank for even a day.

As you begin using all of the features of your new account––your debit card, online bill pay, the app––you’ll be prepared to handle just about any financial need that comes up during the switch.

Step 2: Reset your automatic payments

The biggest perceived pain point around closing a bank account is probably automatic payments. In reality, it’s not too difficult to shift these from one bank to another. Just be careful not to leave any current payees off the list.

To be thorough, take a look at your bank statements from the past 6 to 12 months, identifying all automated payments. Think utility bills, rent or mortgage payments, gym memberships, subscriptions, insurance premiums and other bills that have been coming out of your checking account automatically.

The reason for going back as far as a year is to spot infrequent charges that aren’t top of mind.

As you set up automatic payments with your new bank, keep in mind that there are two ways that this can be done:

  1. You allow your bank to make the payment automatically each month.
  2. You allow the company you’re paying to take money from your account to cover the bill each month.

Whichever way you plan to make automatic payments, just be sure that it’s set up correctly. On occasion, you may need to hop on the phone and give the company your new account and routing number. However, most of the switch-over can probably be done online.

Just remember, change takes time. And with banks, it can take several weeks for all transactions to shift to your new account. If you’re worried, you can always go back to paying online bills the "old-fashioned" way for a time. This is when you schedule and send payments yourself, instead of the service provider pulling money from your account, which can help you keep closer tabs on funds going in and out.

Step 3: Do nothing

With your old account, that is, as it can take up to a month or so for everything to successfully switch over. So hold tight as you confirm that your paychecks are reaching your new account and bill payments are being processed properly.

It’s a good idea to keep a balance in your old account until you’re sure your new account is handling everything without a hitch. Say it takes a few extra weeks for your car payment to be pulled from the new account. In the meantime, your old account can continue paying it. Better safe than sorry when it comes to making a payment late, which can ding your credit score.

Step 4: Make it official

Ready to say your final goodbye? Once your account is empty, you can swing by your branch and close the account in person. You can phone customer service, mail or fax a request with your contact and account information or even do it online in many cases.

Just be sure to make it official with clear instructions so your bank stops sending statements and charging fees. If there’s more cash left in your account than you’re comfortable toting home, you can request a cashier’s check, send funds to yourself via bank-to-bank online transfer or use an app like Zelle.

If you’re closing a joint bank account, you can do that without permission from the other account holder. Once you’re at a zero balance, just visit your branch (with ID handy) and fill out the appropriate form. When closing a bank account online, both account holders may be asked to sign in separately. In some cases, faxed or mailed requests are accepted, but not often.

As with single-holder accounts, all automatic payments and deposits should be canceled. And take note: your bank can sometimes reopen a closed account if automatic withdrawals or deposits continue to be made. That can lead to fees you didn’t expect to pay, so you’ll want to be thorough.

Step 5: Remember, it’s your money

If you’ve moved on to a new bank for a better interest rate or friendlier customer service, a celebration is in order. This means you’re paying attention to the kind of details that can make you a better money manager.

It may also ease your mind to know that closing a checking, savings or money market account won’t hurt your credit, so it’s worth reviewing your options from time to time. Whenever you’re less than satisfied, it’s your right to put your hard-earned money elsewhere.

A bank account that suited you in the past may not meet your needs today. Fortunately, there are plenty of banks in the financial sea—and you’re always the one at the helm.

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