I never set out to change banks like most people change their socks. After all, before 2011, I had only thought about it once. It wasn’t for any particular reason other than I wanted to see what else was out there. It’s true I wasn’t super happy with Regions, but until they pissed me off, I never really thought about leaving them. And when I did leave them, I wasn’t just trying on a new bank to see how I liked it, I was setting up shop. And it was the same way with the next two banks. It wasn’t until I left the Giant Bank (for reasons of being too broke to avoid fees) that I started going into the process with the mindset that I would just leave if it wasn’t working.
Changing banks doesn’t have to be super stressful, and it really isn’t in most cases. With a little organization and planning (and patience doesn’t hurt), it can be quite the smooth and easy process.
Some upsides? It gives you the opportunity to find a better fit. Get a better interest rate. Get a check card with a rewards feature like cash back or other incentives. You may find you need more ATMs or reimbursable ATM fees. There are so many choices out there – there’s no reason to stay somewhere when you’re not happy! Furthermore, it can be a way of starting over with your finances after a divorce or a debt crisis or just because you’re an adult now and want to choose your own bank instead of sticking with the one your parents gave you. But there are definite downsides.
The Transition Period
There’s more often than not a point where you’re in limbo. You can’t use your old account so nothing is pending when you shut it down, and you can’t use your new account because it’s not up and going yet. Once you have your account number and debit cards in hand, you can move on to the next part, which is updating all of your bills and automatic payment profiles. I usually make a list of what I need to update and separate the information into two columns: bank account and check card. Then I check things off as I go. It usually goes fairly quickly, less than 10 minutes, but sometimes you run into a snag and have to wait another few days longer before everything is up and running.
Then there is getting used to new online and mobile interfaces, new paperwork and fee schedules, and new banking locations. Which brings me to my next downside:
Waiting for the holds to fall away from your initial deposit checks.
Waiting to get your check card so you feel normal again.
Waiting until you can get up and going with online or mobile banking.
Waiting for whatever else there is to wait for.
You usually get your accounts numbers right away, no matter how you open the account. However, every bank is different. Mileage varies greatly.
For example, you may only have a two or five day hold on your initial deposit before you’re ready to go. (This has been the experience I’ve run into the most.) On the flip side, some banks will hold your money for up to 10 business days and will hold each additional deposit for 5 business days for the first 30 days. Some check cards and ATM cards arrive within a few days, others take 7 to 15 days. Some have instant issue debit cards and print them right on the spot when you open your account. Some banks will be up and rolling with online and mobile banking right away, others will make you wait until your check card and/or pin number comes in the mail or make you wait until your account has been open for 30 or more days. How fast some of this is depends on how you opened your account. Sometimes things arrive faster when you open the account up online, sometimes opening an account up online makes everything take longer.
It’s hard to cover every little thing in your research, and you won’t remember to ask everything, but I strongly recommend calling prospective banks and interviewing them before you take the plunge. Make sure you are at least getting the features that are the most important to you. Being an impatient type person, I did think about banking with a company who offers instant issue debit cards. But aside from the fact their instant issue machine doesn’t imprint the information on the cards (it’s called embossing and something I just really prefer ), this bank in particular had a 90 day waiting period for mobile deposit and no ATM deposit feature. Plus the check card is kind of extremely plain. And they’re not FDIC insured. That kind of made it a deal breaker all around.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Plain cards? Imprinting? Trust me. I see a lot of cards, and I hate them. The one time I decided to not let check card looks be factor in the bank I chose, and I ended up setting a new record for shortest time ever at a bank: two and a half months. I’m trying to find somewhere I can stay! If I like the check card, it’s one less thing I can jump ship over. Not having mobile deposit for 90 days wasn’t a deal breaker – it was the not being able to make ATM deposits. If I’m unable to get there during open hours for a few days and I need to make a deposit, I would be stuck with literally no options.
I don’t bank hop for fun. It really isn’t all that fun, and frankly, after this last time, I’m tired and want to set up camp. That said, if I’m happier with my banking overall as a result, then it’s always worth it. Let’s just hope I don’t do it again anytime soon, yes? 🙂