8 steps to make switching banks easy

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It takes some time and effort to switch banks, especially if you currently use services like direct deposit or automatic bill paying.

Here are some steps to follow if you want to set up 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 in your area, visit the Independent Community Bankers of America website, www.icba.org/consumer/banklocator .

Another option is to try an online bank, which typically have lower fees because they’re not supporting branches. Among the possibilities are USAA, EverBank, State Farm Bank, Charles Schwab Bank and ING Direct. Or consider Perkstreet Financial, which offers cash back on debit card transactions instead of charging a fee.

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 and copies of canceled checks that you might need for tax purposes or other record keeping.

4. Ask your employer how quickly direct deposit can be changed over. Also 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 of your payees to insure the money gets to the right place. 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, since 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, making 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 .