We talk a lot about opening accounts, but there might come a day when you’ll want to close one. Maybe it’s the fees, a minimum balance that feels too high or an ATM/debit card that’s a hassle to use.
Regardless of why you’re closing an account you may feel like you want to get it over with quickly once you’ve made your decision.
This is totally understandable. But as you’ll see, it’s probably a good idea to give yourself time to run through this short-ish list of to-dos first. Of course, there are many different types of accounts out there, so we'll focus on how to close a checking account in this article.
Before we run through how to close a checking account, we want to make this important point: Emptying a checking account and closing a checking account are two different things.
Emptying a checking account is just withdrawing money. To you, this could feel like a really clear sign that you’re done with the account. But the account is still technically open.
Why does this matter?
Well for one thing, it could cost you some cash. Let’s say your account includes checking account fees. You could have to pay them if the account’s empty but still open.
When you close a checking account, however, it’s a hard stop. You know you’re done with it and equally important, your bank does, too, because you’ve followed their instructions for officially shutting it down.
Now let’s move on to items you want to look into before you and your account part ways.
When you opened your checking account, you may have agreed to a few terms, like you’d keep it open for a specific amount of time or pay a fee if you closed it out early.
It’s OK if you don’t remember the details. You could find them in your account agreement or ask your bank to send you the information. How long you need to have the account open and even funded depends on your bank, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s several months.
Another thing to look into is if your checking account is tied to other accounts you have at the bank.
For example, you could have been offered a savings account with your checking account. If you took your bank up on this offer, find out what happens if you close your checking account. (Would you have to pay fees to keep the savings account open? Meet a minimum balance requirement? Other?)
This information may change your mind about closing the account, or it might not. Either way is fine. The important thing is to know what to expect so you can make an informed decision.
Do this if you signed up for an account that offered a checking account bonus: See if there were any requirements you needed to fulfill (and for how long ) before you could collect or keep the bonus. If you can’t find the terms, ask your bank for them.
We’re putting this here even though it’s obvious: If want to close a checking account, you need a place to transfer the money.
It doesn’t have to be another checking account, or even a new account. But at the very least, it should have features you need. So, if being able to make regular withdrawals or deposits is important, this would take a certificate of deposit out of the running.
You may also want to consider if your new account …
Found an account you like? You may want to consider depositing enough to cover the minimum balance and maybe at least one round of bills you plan on paying with this account while keeping your current checking account open. (We explain why in the next section.)
Good to know: Not all checking accounts are the same. "What is a Checking Account" digs into some of the different types you may come across.
You probably did a few things to make life a little easier when you opened your checking account, like set up automatic bill payments or direct deposit.
Since you’re closing this account, you’re going to want to essentially redirect these automatic transfers so they’re linked to your new account.
This step has two parts: Setting up direct deposit and auto-payments so they’re linked to your new account. And cancelling recurring transactions tied to the checking account you’re closing. (Be sure to do this for any recurring deposits you have set up, say, to an IRA or investment account.)
Since it could take a billing cycle or two for these changes to go into effect, it’s a good idea to make sure both accounts have enough money to cover payments.
Funding two accounts could be tricky. You could slow walk the transition by: First, cancelling all recurring transfers and payments from your old account. Then, temporarily switch to manual payments until you know your automatic transfers from your old account have ended and your new account’s payments have kicked in.
To identify the money that regularly pops in and out of your checking account, log in and look at your transaction history or scan a recent bank statement.
Then, make note of direct deposits, automatic payments and automatic transfers to accounts like your IRA or emergency fund so you know what to automate in your new account’s settings.
If direct deposit is a company benefit you’re using, you’ll probably want to reach out to your HR department to find out how to update your info so your paycheck goes into your new account.
Confirm that all electronic payments have been deducted from your balance and any old-school paper checks have cleared.
If they haven’t, you need to wait. You want all outstanding debts tied to this account to be resolved so you could avoid things like overdraft fees.
Once you’ve set up and funded a new account, successfully rerouted recurring payments and transfers, confirmed all payments have cleared and you’ve seen a paycheck drop into your new account, you are ready to officially close a checking account. (Whoo!)
To do this, ask your bank what their account-closing process is, including if you can close a checking account online, over the phone or if you need to do it in person.
It’s also a good idea to find out:
When it’s all over, shred any checks and debit cards. This is cathartic and a nice bit of security, since it eliminates a few ways someone could try to use this dead account.
And that’s it. You’re done!
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this site were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.