Today is the day. Almost two months ago, I declared I would do it. I’m changing banks this afternoon. My husband and I have banked with Washington Mutual, now Chase, for 14 years. It’s time to start a new era of banking. We’ve decided to move our money to South Valley Bank and Trust.

It’s not easy, from a practical standpoint. We had considered changing banks when we moved here 7 years ago, but the hassle of closing one account and opening another deterred us from taking action. But there’s no time like the present to deal with the pesky little details. Fortunately there are ways to make changing banks a little easier.

5 Steps to Help You Transfer to a New Bank

1. Do Your Research

Before making the move, make sure you check out your banking options thoroughly. The last thing you want is to be moving banks again in a year or two, because you made a poor choice.

Things to consider in your research are:

  • How sound is the bank?
  • What are the bank’s typical fees?
  • Do they hold every deposit, before making the money available to you?
  • Do they offer online banking?
  • Are there branches (or at least free ATMs) widely available, if you travel a lot?
  • How easy is it to talk to upper management for a resolution, should you have a unique troublesome issue?
  • Ask current bank customers their opinion. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising.

2. Keep Good Records

This is something you should be doing anyway, but if you’re a bit sloppy in the record keeping department, now is the time to get it together.

Make sure you know what transactions are floating out in space, before you even consider switching accounts. The last thing you need is a forgotten transaction coming through AFTER you close your account.

3. List Automatic Transactions

Most people these days use direct deposits and direct debits to take care of at least some of their bills. When you switch banks, you need to make sure every automatic transaction is transferred to your new bank.

First list your direct deposits:

  • Your regular paycheck
  • Deposits from any additional freelance type work you do
  • Stipends, Retirement, any other income you may have

Then list automatic debits:

  • Insurance
  • Credit card payments
  • Utility payments
  • Cell Phone payments
  • Don’t forget little things like Netflix, gym memberships, or monthly subscriptions

4. Open Your New Bank Account

It’s time to head on down to your bank of choice to open your account. Make sure you have the required minimum deposit with you. Opening the account should be a relatively painless process. You’ll get some temporary checks, while you wait for your official checks to arrive, and you’ll receive your account number.

Once your account is opened, contact every company you listed in the step above. Give them your new bank information, so they can begin making deposits and debits from the correct account.

Alternatively, you can fill out a “Switch Kit” for your new bank, if they offer one. The switch kit will give the bank the information they need to switch your automatic transactions, so you don’t have to.

5. Close Your Old Account

Ideally, you should keep your old account open for a month or so after you open your new account. Leave a little money cushion in your account, in case one of your automatic transactions doesn’t transfer over as soon as it should.

When you are certain that all of your automatic transactions are working correctly, you have your new checking account and debit card in hand, and you are sure that all transactions have cleared your old account, THEN you can close your old account.

Take a deep breath, celebrate (if you had a compelling reason to leave your old bank), and move on with your financial life.