Dumping your significant other may be the last thing on your mind around Valentine’s Day. But there’s another relationship you should seriously consider ending: the one with your bank.
Studies show that Americans hold on to their bank accounts for far too long. A 2017 Bankrate and MONEY survey found that the average adult has had the same primary checking account for about 16 years.
If you’re unhappy with your bank and it’s not meeting your financial needs, perhaps it’s finally time to move on. Here are 10 reasons you should break up with your bank.
1. It may be easier than you think
Many bank customers are hesitant to switch banks in part because it seems complicated. If you’ve set up online bill pay, for example, and you have multiple automatic payments made throughout the month, unlinking all of your accounts could take some time.
“Sometimes, the only reason people use a particular bank is because they currently are using them and don’t want the hassle of making a change. I think this can be valid, yet short-sighted,” says Neal Frankle, a certified financial planner who runs a site called Wealth Pilgrim. “Yes, you have to go through a little work to make a change, but once you’ve made that time ‘investment,’ it can pay ‘dividends’ for years to come in terms of convenience, lower costs, higher rates, improved technology, etc.”
Bottom line: There are potentially many perks that can come from leaving your bank behind or at least seeing what else is available. And if you’re concerned about forgetting a scheduled payment, leave your old account open until you’ve fully transferred everything to your new one.
“Make sure all transactions have cleared before switching,” says Paul Golden, spokesman for the National Endowment for Financial Education.
2. You’ve outgrown your current bank
If you’ve had the same checking account your parents opened when you turned 2, it may be time for a change.
As you’ve grown and matured, you’ve most likely gone through a series of transitions that have impacted every aspect of your life, including your finances. Going to college, applying for a mortgage and getting married are just a few steps you may have taken that have probably affected the way you manage your money. Failing to choose a bank that can address your different needs at different stages could be a big mistake.
Golden recommends shopping around. If you do some research, you may find a bank that’s more equipped to provide the kind of investment advice or the digital tools you might be looking for.
3. You can earn a much higher yield
The top-yielding savings accounts pay more than 20 times the national average. Yet many Americans still choose brick-and-mortar banks, many of which are paying less than 1 percent APY. A recent Bankrate survey found that just 6 percent of Americans with savings accounts were earning more than 2 percent APY. Meanwhile, nearly 4 in 10 participants were earning either less than 1 percent APY or nothing at all.
“I think a lot of times people would also accept maybe a lower interest rate for that big bank name, like a Chase or Bank of America, knowing that, OK they’ve been around for a while, they have some credibility,” says Donovan Brooks, founder of Storyline Financial Planning in Saint Joseph, Missouri. “I trust that, I’m comfortable with that and I’ll take whatever they’re willing to pay.”
Consider switching to a credit union or an online bank that pays a higher yield. Or, see if there are any special accounts you qualify for as an employee through your job, Golden says.
As long as your deposits are insured by the FDIC or NCUA, your money is safe. If you’re nervous about opening an account with an online bank you’ve never heard of, check out some of the direct banks that are divisions of institutions that have been around for a while, like PurePoint Financial or Capital One.
Even if you don’t have a lot of savings, any amount of extra interest is worth taking advantage of. Use a calculator and find out what your earnings could look like after a year.
4. Fees add up
Getting hit with one fee is probably not a good reason to switch banks, Golden says. But if you find yourself spending hundreds of dollars a year on overdraft and ATM charges, you may need to take a look at a different bank.
“One of the biggest, yet largely unaddressed, reasons consumers should leave their banks is because of fees. There is no reason at all consumers should have to pay a fee for basic services like checking or savings account,” says Catherine New, head of content and communications at Varo Money, which offers fee-free mobile accounts with high yields.
Savers already lose some of their earnings to taxes and inflation (depending on the yield tied to your account). Don’t let fees further reduce the amount of interest you end up with.
5. You don’t need branch access
Studies from J.D. Power show that the most satisfied banking customers are those who bank through digital channels and occasionally visit a physical branch. And though institutions like Wells Fargo are shrinking their physical footprint, others like Chase are actually opening new branches.
Frankle questions why a consumer would need a bank with tons of branches and ATMs.
“First, if you need lots of access to branches, you need to ask yourself why. Unless you have a cash business, you should almost never have to go to a branch,” Frankle says. “Use bill pay, auto-deposit etc. In other words, if you need to visit a bank branch often, it might point to areas in your financial life that need to be addressed. And if you use cash often, it makes it easier to spend and harder to track, so fewer ATMs could be a benefit.”
Everyone’s different. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a branch you can visit from time to time. But if you’re comfortable without access to a physical location, there are many online banks to choose from.
6. Lack of convenience
If you need a bank with branches — because you’re a waitress, a hair stylist or someone who mainly gets paid in cash — it isn’t smart to choose one with few physical locations in your neighborhood or few ATMs in your vicinity. Otherwise, you run the risk of wasting time driving around or wasting money on out-of-network ATM fees.
Accessibility is key. Beyond physical branch or ATM locations, you’ll want a bank that you can easily get in touch with, if needed. If bank representatives are only available during the hours when you’re working — or you can’t reach anyone on the weekend — maybe it’s time to move to a different bank or credit union.
7. Your bank doesn’t have the best reputation
There’s no reason to stay with a bank that has made too many mistakes.
“There are so many other institutions that we can choose from that have a clean slate right now,” Brooks says.
Many of the biggest banks have gotten into their fair share of trouble at one point or another. Customers should be honest with themselves about their limits and what they’ll tolerate. If your bank has been caught up in a number of different scandals, perhaps it’s time to start looking at some alternatives.
8. You’re always skipping town
Always traveling? If you’re never around, it probably doesn’t make sense to keep all of your accounts at a community bank with a handful of local branches. .
You’ll want a bank that fits your lifestyle. So, if you’re traveling abroad every few months to update your food blog — or you’re in a different city every few days meeting with business clients — you’re probably better off going with an online bank or one with a robust set of digital functionalities. For example, you might want the ability to turn your debit card on or off or deposit checks using your phone while you’re away from home.
9. Your bank’s behind the digital curve
Savvy consumers are looking for banks with a laundry list of features, like person-to-person payments, online bill pay and digital tools.
You may not be the kind of customer who needs an account with a lot of bells and whistles. But at the bare minimum, you may need a bank with a mobile app (some don’t have one yet). And depending on what your financial goals are, you could benefit from an institution with a virtual assistant that can identify problem areas and help you get your finances on track.
10. You want better customer service
In this digital age, you may be doing a lot of your banking online or through your phone. But customer service may still be important to you, especially if you’re turning to your bank as a source of financial advice.
If bank representatives are uninformed about certain products or you aren’t getting your questions answered, your banking experience can be very frustrating, Golden says.
Customer service may also come into play in situations where there’s an outage and certain services like online or mobile banking are unavailable. Wells Fargo and BB&T have dealt with technical glitches and incidents in recent months. If your bank isn’t helpful when problems arise, it doesn’t hurt to consider taking your business elsewhere.
Before you go
There are many perks to changing banks. You could earn more interest, pay fewer fees or have access to better digital products and customer service. But the reality is that deposit accounts remain sticky. Few people are willing to make the time to switch over their accounts.
Weigh the pros and cons and consider how you could benefit from kicking your existing bank to the curb. Do your research and compare accounts depending on what matters most to you. Don’t close your old account until you’ve double-checked and made sure that direct deposit and payments are connected to your new checking account. And consider whether it’s worth it to keep some ties to your former institution. Closing a credit card, for instance, could be a bad idea especially if it’s in good standing and you’re concerned about it impacting your credit score.