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So You Want To Close Your Bank Account? Well, Not So Fast...

The tactics that banks are using to truly scam people have reached new heights in recent years.  I think for many people the new 'normal' in dealing with banks is to expect them to try to rip you off.  I remember not too many years ago that most people had the default position of being trusting of their bank until such time as they had a good reason not to be. Although Bank of America has stepped back from their plan to institute a $5 monthly fee just for using a debit card, there is still plenty for consumers to be unhappy about their local bank.  This has led to the mass exodus from the banking system this past weekend through an organized protest called 'bank transfer day.'

 

Still to this day when I write an article critical of the banking industry I receive a handful of e mails pointing out that I may be exaggerating my claims or that I am being unfair.  One such story which I was covering for years (before it became mainstream news) was the scam that banks were employing to manufacture bounced check fees.  They would purposely clear checks from largest to smallest to cause the most number of NSF fees.  The next scam they moved on to was to charge overdraft fees of $25 or more if we went even one dollar over the balance in our account while using our debit card.  Rather than simply declining the transaction, the debt card transaction would be approved and you would end up paying $27 for that $2 soda you bought at the mall.  These practices have been so egregious that fines in the millions have been levied and the laws have been changed, but at least one significant scam still remains.

 

The Art Of Closing A Bank Account

So you have had it with your bank and want to close your account, simple right?  Wrong.  The first roadblock you will face is that you won't be allowed to close your account over the phone or online.  You will be required to come into the bank in person.  Next, you will not be able to close the account by waiting in the normal teller lines.  You will be required to wait in the lobby to meet with a personal banker or bank officer, and they are trained to make it difficult for you to close your account.  Take a moment to read the story of a bank that refused to close an account with a 5 cent balance and was demanding $149 in fees. 

Consider the following good advice on how to close a bank account from John Hielscher of the Sarasota Herald Tribune:

• Open the new bank account with a small deposit, before closing the current account. Make sure the deposit will be enough to avoid any fees the new bank may charge for low balances. Funds from the older account can later be transferred electronically to the new bank.

• Make a list of all automatic payments and deposits that go in and out of the older account. This will help set up payments for the new account and ensure there is enough money in the older account to make all payments during the switch process.

• If you have direct deposit, get your employer to reroute paychecks to the new account. It may take more than one pay cycle to reroute the deposit.

• Once you know when the direct deposits will transfer, reschedule your automatic payments and debits for the new account.

• Leave a small amount of cash in the old checking account for at least one more month. This will cover any payment you may have forgotten. Try to leave enough to avoid a monthly fee.

• Once you are sure all automatic payments and direct deposits have switched to the new account, electronically transfer the remaining funds from your old account. It may take a few days to clear, but transferring money electronically is usually the fastest, cheapest and safest way to move funds between accounts.

• Once that transfer clears, follow the procedures to close your old account. The account does not automatically close just because you have withdrawn all the funds, and that bank could still charge you fees. Obtain written confirmation that the account is closed.

These are all great tips, but it really makes the point that something as simple as just closing a bank account can be a major ordeal these days.  I had a close relative that could not get their bank to close out their account.  The bank claimed fees were owed, but when the fees were paid more fees were added on top of the prior fees.  Nearly $300 later the account was officially able to be closed.

 

If you have your own story, positive or negative about your own bank account closing experience please use the comment section below to share it.

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James L. Paris
Editor-In-Chief ChristianMoney.com 
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