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My Easy Checking Account Switch

pen signing a checkRecently, to kill time waiting for some CDs to mature, I decided to do something I thought would be challenging: Move my primary checking account from Union Bank to Ally Bank.

Electronically linked to accounts at 27 banks, credit unions and online brokers, my Union Bank checking account – in place for some 20 years – has been the principal channel through which I’ve received CD interest income and from which I’ve paid bills.

I thought I was financially married to this account, but it turns out I wasn’t. Switching, in fact, was relatively easy.

(I posted last year about my dissatisfaction with Union Bank’s treatment of “Priority Banking” customers and won’t rehash that or bother proclaiming the virtues of Ally’s interest checking account.)

I access CD interest through three basic electronic link mechanisms.

At some institutions, such as OneWest Bank, Discover Bank and Bank of Internet, interest is sent directly from my CD account to my external checking account.

Changing that checking account involved a simple branch visit or completing and returning a short form.

At other institutions, interest is paid, or transferred, to an internal checking, savings or money market account.

At some (where ACH fees aren’t imposed and transfer limits are generous), such as Nationwide Bank, CIT Bank and Alliant Credit Union, I then arrange, through the institution’s website, to transfer the funds, when credited, to my external checking account.

At others, including Airbanking, Velocity Credit Union and Mountain America Credit Union, to avoid fees or low ACH limits, I initiate the transfer through the checking account bank’s website.

In each case, all that was required to change the destination account was to use an existing link, or establish a new link, between Ally and the CD institution.

I also changed direct-deposit arrangements for Social Security and pension payments. The former required a few clicks on the Social Security website, the latter emailing a new form and voided check to my former employer.

I don’t take advantage of other checking account bells and whistles, such as ATM and debit cards.

I also don’t use bank bill-paying services. I pay bills myself, after reviewing them, through the vendor’s website. To switch checking accounts for these, I just designated a new “default” payment source online.

Anyway, the switch took about a week and didn’t interfere with more pressing activities, like playing golf and taking afternoon naps.

Nevertheless, I hope I don’t feel compelled to do this again – at least for another 20 years.

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