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How to switch bank or credit union accounts seamlessly

Man switching bank accounts at laptop in kitchen
March 10, 2020

By Claire Hegstrom

Transferring accounts to a new bank or credit union account can initially seem like a daunting task. You’ll need a new debit card and a fresh box of checks, and you’ll have to update your streaming subscriptions with your new checking account info.

Gone are the days of lengthy appointments in a banker’s office to simply open a new savings or checking account. With the digital era and online and mobile banking platforms, you can switch bank or credit union accounts and start earning more bang for your hard-earned buck, all from the comfort of your couch.

A few minutes spent organizing your information will help make this transition a breeze, and the rewards you can reap from your new account could pay you back tenfold.

Here's what you’ll need to do to transfer accounts:

1. Gather the basics

You’ll need your driver’s license or other valid U.S. government-issued ID, your Social Security Number or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), and your permanent address.

2. Start the application process

If you’ve placed a freeze on your credit, you’ll want to temporarily lift it, as your new credit union or bank will need to run a soft pull of your credit report. This soft pull, also known as a quarterly pull, will not negatively affect your credit score, and is used as a deciding factor in eligibility for a checking or savings account.

3. Record new account information

If you’ve been approved for your new account, congratulations! If you’ve chosen a credit union, your new account will also include credit union membership. Make sure you save your full account number and new financial institution’s routing number in a secure location, as you’ll need them to set up automatic payments and transfer funds to your new account.

Pro tip: If there are multiple zeros at the beginning or end of your credit union account number, be sure to record them exactly.

4. Fund your new accounts

Unlike many large banks, credit union accounts usually have a low minimum balance requirement, or none at all. Most credit union savings accounts require you to fund it with a $5 initial deposit (Alliant actually pays that $5 for you). This small deposit now serves as your “buy-in” to owning a portion of your credit union.

5. Transfer your funds from other existing accounts

This step may sound intimidating, but it can actually be painless with today’s technology. Simply transfer your funds using the account transfer function in online or mobile banking. If you’re looking to transfer larger balances, you can also write a check made out to yourself from your old account, and use the mobile deposit feature on your new credit union or bank’s app to easily deposit funds.

Note: Most financial institutions have special rules for funds availability for new account holders to help protect against fraud. Be sure to check with your new bank or credit union about their policy.

6. Set up direct deposit

The account number and routing number you saved in Step 3 is all the information you’ll need to set up direct deposit of your paycheck to your new checking account. Contact human resources at your work and complete the necessary paperwork (often it’s a short form on your employer’s intranet). If you forget your financial institution’s routing number, you can find it with a quick Google search.

7. Update automatically recurring payments with new account info

Once you’ve rerouted your paycheck direct deposit to your new account, make sure to update any subscriptions or automatically recurring payments with your new account information or debit card number. Some of the most frequently forgotten payments are music and video streaming services, subscription box clubs, yearly memberships, etc.

8. Close your other accounts

Let’s say your previous bank required you to keep $100 in your savings account, so you weren’t able to transfer it right away. Have no fear; most likely you still won’t have to leave your couch. Call your previous financial institution, and they’ll usually be able to send you an electronic document to sign and close your account. Then, they’ll mail a check with your remaining balance.

In total, the process of switching to a new checking or savings account can be done in under an hour using your digital devices (and all while still in your pajamas).


Claire Hegstrom is an advocate of the credit union movement through and through. Passionate about financial education, she approaches money conversations from a candid and inclusive space focused on growth and awareness. As our credit union founding father, Ed Filene, once said, “Progress is the constant replacing of the best there is with something still better.” Claire hopes reading Money Mentor will help transform your life from the best to even better.

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