Once you've chosen your new bank, the next step is opening a new checking account. Unless the institution you've chosen is an online bank, open the account in person, says Viveca Ware, senior vice president of regulatory policy for the Independent Community Bankers of America.
"It's much easier to get advice in person than it is over the phone," Ware says.
If you haven't opened a new bank account in a while, you may be surprised at the list of documents and info you'll need to bring, thanks to provisions of the Patriot Act.
Here's a list of what you'll need:
- Your name, address and date of birth.
- Official photo identification, such as a driver's license, state ID or passport. If you can't provide any of these, some banks will take two forms of official nonpicture ID, such as a Social Security card or a birth certificate.
- Your Social Security number.
- An opening deposit in the form of cash, check or payment information, including account number and nine-digit routing number, for an existing bank account with a balance big enough to cover the amount.
That last part is key; the amount of money you'll need to start a checking account can vary greatly. Bankrate's 2012 Checking Account Survey found the average minimum deposit needed to open an interest-bearing checking account was $507. The average minimum to open a noninterest checking account, $74, was much lower.