“Breaking up is hard to do.”
People have been quoting that song for 50 years because, well, it’s true. If you’ve ever been part of a breakup, you know it is hard. All the emotions come out—the sadness, depression, and anger. Then come the breakup songs and late-night ice cream binges, those kinds of things.
But there’s one type of breakup that doesn’t have to be hard: closing a bank account.
Sure, your heart might get anxious at the thought of going to another bank—especially if you’ve banked at the same place since you were a kid. Then there’s the pressure you might get from your bank to stay. The thought of closing your bank account sounds as intimidating as quitting a gym membership.
But whether your bank has done you dirty or you just want to change things up, breaking up with your bank is actually pretty easy. So, how do you close a bank account? We’ll take you through a step-by-step process to get you on the road to something better.
Don’t worry—you will survive. Gloria Gaynor said so.
How to Close a Bank Account
We all know there’s a right way and a wrong way to end a relationship. It’s important to be intentional, follow through with your decision, and take the right steps to avoid problems and loose ends. You want this to be a smoot parting of ways—not a lighting-your-ex’s-stuff-on-fire situation.
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Here’s a brief breakdown of what you’ll need to do in order to successfully close your account. We’ll go into more detail with each one.
- Find another bank.
- Update all direct deposits and automatic payments.
- Make sure the old account is in good standing.
- Notify the bank.
- Transfer old account funds.
- Get it in writing.
- Shred old checks and cards.
Note: These steps are just a general walkthrough of how to close a bank account. You’ll need to check with your bank to see if they have any specific things you need to do.
So, here’s how to close a bank account:
1. Find another bank.
We don’t recommend this as the first step in ending a people relationship, but for banks, it’s the way to go. It’s important to know where your money is going to land before you close your existing account. When opening another account, do your homework and find a bank that suits your needs and money goals. There are hundreds of banks out there to choose from . . . and they all want your business.
2. Update all direct deposits and automatic payments.
Next, redirect all your automatic deposits and payments to your new account. This step includes deposits and payments that use your actual account information (ACH transactions) and those regular payments you make with your debit card, like a streaming service subscription or gym membership.
Forgetting about these automatic payments can cause delays in service or slap you with late fees because a company tried to charge an account that no longer exists. Or worse—your old bank could reopen your account (sometimes called a zombie account) if they receive a random charge or deposit. If that happens, you’re stuck with your ex-bank and have to deal with overdraft fees and other penalties. Not fun.
3. Make sure the old account is in good standing.
The last thing you want when closing a bank account is to have any outstanding debts or expenses. You can’t just cut and run—it doesn’t work that way. And your bank won’t let you leave that way anyway. Make sure your old account isn’t in the red (overdrawn) and that you don’t have any incoming payments that would put it into the red. If you don’t do that, you could be saddled with overdraft charges and other fees.
It’s also a good idea to leave a little money in your old account for a month or two to make sure all the loose ends are tied up.
4. Notify the bank.
The next step is to contact your old bank to have “the talk.”
This shouldn’t get awkward—after all, it’s just a part of the business. But be prepared for a last-ditch “desperate ex” attempt from your old bank to woo you back with bells and whistles. If you’re committed to ending the relationship, stand your ground and politely (but firmly) say, “No, we’re done.”
What happens next will depend on the individual rules and polices of your soon-to-be ex-bank. Some banks take care of everything online. Others might also require you to make a phone call or a visit to one of their branches (if they have any) to confirm your identity and/or sign paperwork. And still others might charge you a fee for leaving, depending on what type of account you have (talk about putting salt on the wound!).
5. Transfer old account funds.
Now comes the time to transfer money to your new account.
Most banks will simply send you a check for the total amount of your balance after the account has been closed and all the paperwork has been signed. Others can transfer the funds directly into your new account.
6. Get it in writing.
It’s time to make the breakup official. Once your account is completely closed out (meaning there are no more incoming charges or deposits that could zombify your account), ask your old bank for written confirmation that your account is officially closed. That way, if there’s any funny business regarding fees or (heaven forbid) identity theft issues, you have written proof that you closed the account.
Also, be sure to download or print your final bank statement. That will also come in handy in case there are any issues down the road.
7. Shred old checks and cards.
With the account closed and everything in order, it’s time to get rid of those old memories of your ex. That means getting rid of all your checks and bank cards (including debit, ATM and credit cards). This is another great way to prevent identity theft, which may (again) open yourself up to your old account coming back from the dead.
Now, you don’t need to go to the breakup extreme here and burn everything to a crisp in a bonfire (that’s kind of weird anyway). The shredder will do just fine.
But don’t send everything through the shredder. It’s a good idea to hold on to your bank statements for a year (whether they’re physical or digital copies). After that, feel free to delete or chop those up too.
Why Should I Close My Bank Account?
There are lots of reasons to close a bank account. Maybe you’re moving to another city or state and it’s more convenient to go someplace local (long-distance relationships are tough). Or maybe you have a crappy bank that charges lots of unnecessary fees and has poor customer service. Sometimes you can get a better deal at another bank that offers higher interest rates and other goodies. Or you might want to switch banks when you open a combined account with your spouse when you get married.
But here’s the thing: You don’t need a reason! You’re the customer. You’re in control. The bank’s not your boyfriend, your girlfriend or even your friend. The bank is providing you a service, and if you don’t like that service (for whatever reason), you have every right to go up to that bank and tell them, “It’s over.”
Can the Bank Close My Account?
Depending on the status of your account and the policies of your bank, the bank could be the one to spring the breakup on you. In fact, the bank could technically close or freeze your account at any time for any reason.
But most of the time, if the bank decides to close your account, it’s usually because you didn’t use it very often or don’t have any money in it. But sometimes, it’s for serious things like unpaid overdraft fees, too many transfers between accounts, or you getting in trouble with the law.
Does My Old Bank Keep Any Records of My Account?
Even though it’s over between you and your bank, they can’t completely let you go. Banks are required to keep a record of your account for five years. This may give you creepy stalker vibes, but the government makes them do it. Just think of it as yet another layer of legal protection in case the bank accuses you of something.
Saying farewell to your old bank and closing your accounts doesn’t have to be complicated. It just takes some preparation and intentionality on your part. You know what you need from a bank, and if they’re not providing that, it’s your right to close your account and kick ‘em to the curb . . . in a nice way.
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