When I was 16, I went to the local Washington Mutual branch with my mum and opened a savings account so I’d have a place to put the money I made working at the roller skating rink.
A decade later, I found myself still banking at what has become Chase. There were a couple of reasons for this: I’ve lived in New York since I was 18, and there are branches everywhere. Even though Chase charges you to use a non-Chase ATM machine, it rarely presented a huge problem because there’s generally one within a few blocks.
I don’t really use my bank account or debit card that often. Anything I can pay for with a credit card I do so that I can rack up airline miles (I pay it off in full at the end of every month). My checking account transactions are basically limited to paying the credit card, paying my rent, and paying my utility bills. So I only really think about my bank when I need cash.
The last, and most embarrassing reason that I was still banking with Chase: when I first opened that savings account as a teenager, I opened it with my mother (I think I had to, because I was under 18). My mum never lost access to it, so my parents could send me money automatically without having to wait for an ACH transfer or a check in the mail. This was helpful in college, when she would send me money every once in a while, but isn’t really anymore (woohoo adulthood!). For Christmas, I’ll teach my mum to use Venmo.
The point is that Chase was at one point minorly convenient for me. But it’s majorly inconvenient in a variety of ways: there’s a $US2 fee to use any non-Chase ATM, on top of whatever that machine charges you, plus the interest rate on my checking and savings accounts are terrible. I had always just been too lazy to close my account.
Then, over the weekend, Reuters reporter Lauren LaCapra tweeted this:
So Chase now charges $US5 to take cash out of a non-Chase ATM. Is that aggressive or am I crazy?
— Lauren Tara LaCapra (@LaurenLaCapra) December 7, 2014
It turned out to be not quite true — she later clarified that this fee only applies to ATMs outside of the US. But it annoyed me at just the right time, and I decided it was time to break up with my bank. It took me a total of about 20 minutes over a couple of days. Here’s how to do it, for anyone fed up with any of the big bank’s hidden fees, horrible customer service, and paltry interest rates.
Step 1: Find a new bank.
This is a helpful list if you don’t have any idea where to turn. Definitely consider a credit union. I didn’t really have to choose. I’ve actually had a savings account with Ally for several years, because it has one of the best interest rates around for savings accounts (currently 0.9%). I actually already had opened a checking account there, as well, for some money I had wanted to segregate a while back. If you don’t have an extra account laying around, call or go to the website of the bank you choose and open one. It takes about five minutes.
I like Ally because there aren’t monthly maintenance fees or account minimums. Annnnd, there are no ATM fees. None. What you get charged by other ATMs, Ally reimburses you for.
The downside is there are no physical branches, so depositing checks can be a pain (you take a photo of the check with your phone, then it takes a couple of days to clear). But at this point I deposit maybe five checks a year.
It’s helpful to wait until you get your new debit card in the mail before moving on to step 2.
Step 2: Once you have a new account number, move all necessary automatic payments.
My rent and my utility bills automatically come out of my bank account, but that’s about it, so it was really easy to go onto those websites and change my direct deposit settings. Speaking of direct deposit, don’t forget how you get paid. I also had to go into Business Insider’s HR site and change my payment allocations.
Step 3: Transfer all of your money from your old to your new account
One click and it’s over! Wait on this until other things above are done, though, if your bank requires a minimum balance in your account.
Step 4: Walk into your bank and ask to close your account
They will ask you why. They will try to persuade you to stay. Stay firm. I found that when I said “I’m leaving because I found a higher interest rate elsewhere,” and there was nothing they could come back at me with. The sales associate smiled. He asked me what interest rate I was getting at my new bank — was it close to 1%? I said yes, and he got to work. Some typing on a keyboard for about a minute and it was over. I folded my debit card in half, and I was done!