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Choose bank account: Switching

By Marcie Geffner ·
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Posted: 6 am ET

If you're thinking about changing your bank because the location isn't convenient or the bank's services aren't meeting your needs, you'll need an action plan to make the transition a smooth one.

Here, courtesy of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., or FDIC, is a to-do list.

1. Decide whether to switch. Before you close your account, figure out what products and services you need. Then, compare the costs at several banks and discuss your situation with your current bank to find out whether other options might work better for you. Don't let short-term promotional offers drive your decision.

2. Transfer direct deposits. If you've decided to open an account at a new bank, arrange to transfer your direct deposits. Switching might take several weeks, so you'll need to plan ahead and keep enough money in your old account long enough to pay remaining bills.

3. Purchase checks. If you occasionally write paper checks, you'll need to purchase a fresh supply from your bank or a check-printing company. Shop around and compare the costs.

4. Transfer automatic payments. If you've authorized local utilities or other companies to withdraw funds from your account to pay monthly bills, you'll need to contact them and update your banking information. If you're using your bank's online bill-pay feature to handle incoming bills automatically, you'll need to cancel those withdrawals at your old bank and enroll through the new bank's website. This process can take a few days to complete, the FDIC says.

5. Guard against overdrafts and late fees. Closely monitor both of your accounts in case you need to pay a bill another way, such as in person or by check, to avoid being charged a fee. Make sure all withdrawals have been posted to your old checking account before you close it. Closing the account too soon could trigger fees or other problems.

6. Protect your identity. Shred and securely dispose of your old checks and debit or ATM cards after your account is closed.

This is third of a four-part series. Next: Tips to use your new bank account.

Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff.

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