Closing your bank account in United States? Here is what you should do

04.04.18
7 minute read
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There are plenty of reasons why you might need to close a bank account. Maybe you’re graduating and it’s time to move on from a student account. Maybe you’ve found a bank with account perks and fees that work better for you, so you’re switching and need to close your old account. Or maybe you’re moving to a new country, and you need to close your account in the US.

Closing a bank account may seem like an easy process, but it can be surprisingly complex. And to make things worse, there can be fees involved. Knowing the correct way to close your bank account could be the difference between losing money while you do so, and closing it hassle-free. Read on to learn what you need to know.

Lost on how to close a bank account?

This seemingly complex process actually only takes a handful of steps to do correctly. Here’s what you need to do.

1. Find your new bank account first

Different banks offer different benefits and fee structures, so it’s important to do your research before you choose your new bank account. You don’t want to be going through the process of closing one again any time soon, so choose wisely. Some questions you may want to ask before you make a decision are:

  • What are the fees associated with the new account? Do you have to pay maintenance fees to keep the account open? How much? How often do you have to pay?
  • Does the new account have any minimum deposit requirements? Are you able to meet them?
  • Are there any limits on withdrawals? If so, will they get in the way of how you normally use your money?
  • Can you earn interest on the account? How much? How often is it paid (Monthly? Quarterly? Yearly?)? Compare the posted interest rates at a number of banks and credit unions before settling on one.
  • Will the new bank’s online features be useful to you? Can you transfer money online? How about paying your bills?
  • How about its mobile banking app? Does it have one? Does it make access to your accounts easier with useful, mobile-friendly features? Are there fees for mobile access?
  • Does the new account have deposit insurance? Is it regulated by the local body in that country (like the FCA, HMRC or FDIC)?
  • Is the new bank convenient for you? Are there branches near your home and place of work? Are ATMs for this bank easy to find? What banking needs can be handled online or by phone, so you can skip a branch visit altogether?
  • What are the overdraft fees? Does the account have overdraft protection?

Considering all these questions will help you pick the best new bank account for you, something you’ll want to do before you close the old one so you can make the transition as seamless as possible.

Consider a borderless account as an alternative to bank accounts

TransferWise offers borderless multi-currency accounts that allow users to send, receive, hold and manage money in dozens of global currencies all at the same time. If you travel frequently or are making an international move, a borderless account can help you save on transfer fees while you move overseas. Customers in the EU also have access to consumer debit cards. Opening an account is free, and it can be done completely online.

2. Review your scheduled and regular automatic payments as well as direct debits or e-checks

For a seamless transition, you’ll need to update all of your direct debits, automated payments and direct deposits to your new bank account. This can seem like a particularly daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Just review your bank statements (at least six months worth, but ideally a full year) and highlight any automatic payments or deposits.

Keep an eye out for rent, mortgage, phone bill, utilities, gym subscription, streaming service subscriptions and any other regular payments you have. Then update all of them with your new bank account number and routing number. Allow 2-3 weeks for everything to completely shift over to your new account, and double check to make sure everything has shifted, so you don’t get stuck with payments or debits coming out of your old account after you’ve moved your money out of it.

Check with your bank to see if you have any outstanding checks, and make sure you’re not expecting any direct deposits. Lastly, let your employer know your new banking details.

3. Start transferring your money to your new bank account

You should start transferring money into your new account before you close your old one, since that way, you don’t have to wait for your old bank to process your account closing and your money is likely to be available in the new account sooner. Also, be aware that your bank may have daily transfer limits that can slow down the process of moving your money into the new account. Bottom line: It’s better to start this process as early as possible.

If you’re transferring your money into a new account in another country, be aware that most banks charge international transfer fees in addition to making money on the poor exchange rate they offer, sometimes profiting as much as 4-5% on currency conversions. Instead, try TransferWise, which allows you to move your money overseas at the exact mid-market rate, or the same exchange rate you see when you Google it, without any markups or hidden fees. All you pay is a small, fair transfer fee that’s spelled out upfront.

4. Download your bank statements / history

Once your account is closed, you’ll lose access to your online banking and any other information associated with the old account. Now is the time to download your bank statements and any other documents that you may need in the future, to make sure you have them even after the account is closed.

5. Close the account

Once everything is switched over to your new account, it’s time to close the old one. You can send a letter requesting to close your account by mail, or you may be able to request to close it in person at a branch, by phone, or online. Whichever method you choose, make sure you request written confirmation from the bank (in the form of a letter) that the account has been closed and any further transactions using that account will be cancelled.

Is there a fee for closing your bank account?

There can be. Some banks require accounts to be open for a minimum time period, and if they’re closed before then, charge a fee to recoup some of their costs for opening and closing the account. For example, US Bank and PNC both charge $25 if the account is closed within 180 days of being opened. Smaller local banks may charge even more.

How long does it take to close a bank account?

When you’re finally ready to close your account, how long it will take depends on a few factors. It could take as little time as a day. However, if there are funds left in your account or if you haven’t rerouted all of your automatic payments, debits and deposits, it could take up to a few months. It’s also possible that once you close your account, if you missed an automatic transaction, it could cause your account to be reopened, which could leave you responsible for any applicable overdraft fees.

Even after you’ve followed all of the above steps, it may be a good idea to hold off on actually closing your account for 1-3 months, just to make sure you haven’t missed any automatic transactions that could cause you trouble.

Does closing a bank account have an impact on your credit score?

Checking accounts, savings accounts, money market accounts and certificates of deposit are not included on your credit score, so closing any of these will not affect your credit score.

However, if you close an account at a bank that has loans or credit accounts associated with it, that could be a different story. If you close your longest-standing account, it will shorten your overall credit history and may have a negative impact on your overall score. Closing accounts with high limits and low balances will also likely ding your credit score.

No matter what your reason is for wanting to close your bank account in the US, this guide should help simplify what can be a complex process. The bottom line is that it takes a little time and careful attention to detail to successfully close an account. Good luck!

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