Consumers fed up with bank fees have marked Saturday as "Bank Transfer Day." Even those who don't feel the need to switch may be interested in checking out their options, given the attention credit unions and smaller community banks are getting.
But transferring accounts takes planning, especially for those who use services like direct deposit or automatic bill pay.
Here are the steps to follow when opening a new account:
1. Research options to find a new institution that offers the services you need. Most credit unions have eligibility requirements, but they're usually not hard to meet. Find a local credit union you qualify for by visiting www.asmarterchoice.org or www.culookup.com.
To find a community bank, visit the Independent Community Bankers of America website, www.icba.org/consumer/banklocator.
Online banks, which typically have lower fees and offer higher interest rates because they're not supporting branches, are another option.
2. Open an account at the new institution and deposit just enough to meet minimum balance requirements. Order checks, deposit slips and debit cards.
3. If you've signed up for paperless banking on your old accounts, print out or otherwise save any statements you might need for tax purposes or record keeping.
4. Ask your employer how quickly direct deposit can be changed over. Make sure other potential deposits, like insurance or flexible spending account reimbursements, are transferred.
5. Enter the companies and service providers you pay electronically into your new bank account. Consider sending small trial payments to each. This can also help you gauge how fast your new bank's bill pay works.
6. Transfer any automatic or recurring bill payments from the old account to the new one. Be sure to review several months of statements from your old bank to make sure you don't forget about any automatic payments; utility bills or insurance premiums may be bimonthly or quarterly.
7. Leave a small amount of cash in the old account for a few weeks to allow any outstanding items to clear.
8. Close your account at your old financial institution and make sure to obtain written confirmation that your account is closed.
For more details on how to switch financial institutions, see tips from the Consumers Union at http://bit.ly/glWqfr.