Switching banks can be painless if you follow these stepsAre you thinking about switching banks? Maybe you're moving to an area where your current bank doesn't have branches, or maybe you're decamping for better customer service. Whatever the reason, there are some important logistical details to keep in mind if you're planning to uproot and transplant your main financial relationship. If you're not careful, you could wind up creating a tremendous -- and possibly expensive -- headache.

First of all, don't close your main account without having the new one up and running, advises Linda Sherry, director of national priorities at advocacy group Consumer Action. "My suggestion is to have people keep the old account open and set up the new account with the minimum you need to maintain it," she told WalletPop in a phone interview.

If you've signed up for paperless banking, print out or save your statements and digital copies of canceled checks as PDFs before you close the account, or you may find it difficult to access those documents, Sherry warns. This checklist of bank-switching steps also suggests ordering your checks, deposit slips and ATM cards as soon as possible after establishing the new account in case they take awhile to arrive.

Once you have the new account established, transfer any automatic or recurring payments from the old account. "Wait until you get the new checks and debt cards before closing the old one, and allow all your outstanding items to clear, along with closing out recurring payments or e-bills," Sherry says. She suggests having all your various user names and passwords on hand to make this go more smoothly. You'll also want to have both the account number and routing number associated with the new account. Go back through several months' worth of statements from your old bank to make sure you don't forget about any automatic payments, since things like utility bills or insurance premiums may be taken out bimonthly or quarterly.

Most important, Sherry says, is to give yourself three to four weeks after you've completed moving your automatic bills to make sure everything's been moved over. As this comment thread from the The Consumerist illustrates, it behooves you to follow up with the various merchants to make sure they have the new account information -- even if the bank says they'll take care of it for you. Taking the extra time to verify the transfer of information can save you hassle in the future.

Sometimes, in spite of your best efforts, someone might try to take a payment out or cash a check against your account after you think you've wrapped up all the loose ends. For this reason, Sherry recommends making sure your old bank has your current contact information so they can get in touch with you if necessary.

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