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6 steps to making the switch an easier process

How to say good-bye to your bank: steps to take to make a switch

You'll breathe a sigh of relief once you take these 6 steps to changing banks. — Photo by Andersen Ross/Getty Images

En español | Lots of people are furious about the new and often hidden fees that banks are imposing on checking accounts. So if you’re thinking about breaking up with your bank, you’re not alone. The good news is that, with just a little legwork, you can find a better deal. Just follow these six steps.

1. Make a list of all direct deposits and debits that have been set up for your present account. These could include such things as paycheck and Social Security deposits and automatic payments for utilities and loans.

Don’t trust your memory — check your statements. Forget one and you could miss out on getting paid — or possibly be delinquent with a creditor if an automatic payment fails due to a canceled account. That could result in damage to your credit score.

2. Open a new checking account at a different bank or a credit union, after doing research on their fee structure. Then contact the companies that you had signed up with for direct deposits or debits, using the list you compiled to ask them to switch to the new institution. If you’ve already registered online with them, it may just involve updating your account information on their website — or you may be required to submit a request on paper. You’ll need to provide the new financial institution’s routing number and your new account number. (In addition, some may ask you to send a voided check to them through the mail.)

The string of numbers at the bottom of your check is your bank routing number — it’s always nine-digits long. Your account number will be to the right of the bank routing number. (You don’t need to give them the third set of numbers, which will be the check number — and the same as the one printed in the check’s upper-right-hand corner.)

3. If all of this seems a bit daunting, ask your new bank whether it provides a “switch kit.” These typically include step-by-step instructions and the paper forms you may need for redirecting your automatic transactions. Chances are your new bank will also have employees whose job it is to help you with this task — the bank wants your business, after all. Be sure to ask.

4. The Web service goes a step further. For $14.95, it can help you through the process — you enter the names of the companies you deal with for automatic debits and deposits (you won’t be asked for account information) and the service then emails you a customized switch kit that includes other resources such as paper forms for the institutions that you need to contact, phone numbers and website addresses.

5. Stop using your old account.

6. Wait to close the old account until you’re sure every automatic transaction has been switched. Some of the firms making automatic credits and debits will be slower than others — so look at your checking statements or monitor your account online to confirm that each firm has completed the switch. Make sure that all paper checks you’ve written on the old account have cleared. (You’ve kept good records of your checks, right?)  Close the old account.

Your work is done. You can now breathe a sigh of relief.

Also of interest: 8 ways to avoid bank fees. »

William J. Lynott is an author and freelance writer who specializes in business and financial issues.

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