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Choosing a New Checking Account: Make It Easy to Make a Switch (Free Checklist)

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There are a variety of reasons that have led you to this point: the time when you decide something has to change. You need a checking account that works for you, not against you. Maybe you have moved to a new city, or your marital status has recently changed. Perhaps you are tired of excessive fees, or maybe you are unable to access the checking account features you need with your current financial institution.

Whatever the case may be, opening a new checking account might be the best option for you.

There is good news, though. Credit unions and other financial institutions offer a variety of options to members and customers, giving you the opportunity to evaluate what is most important to you in terms of where and how you access your money. Making the decision can seem daunting, but once you have a firm understanding of what fits your lifestyle, the answer and process is quite simple.

Evaluate What Matters to You

For some people, higher interest rates or dividends are a deciding factor on where and when to either open or switch checking accounts. For others, it’s all about convenience and accessibility. Other people care about customer service over everything else. Before switching or opening a new or additional checking account, know what really matters to you so you don’t find yourself needing to change again a few months down the road.

Rewards

  • Checking accounts can pay YOU. Many credit unions and institutions offer rewards-based accounts that will pay you certificate-like rates. These accounts allow you to keep the flexibility of a checking account while earning a higher dividend rate.

  • Most dividend or rewards-based accounts do require you to meet certain criteria. Typically, this is as simple as signing up for e-statements over mailed statements, setting up a direct deposit or ACH debit, utilizing online banking, and performing a certain number of debit transactions per month.

  • Don’t be afraid to shop around to find the credit union or financial institution that is capable of providing the best rate for you.

Access

  • If convenience matters most to you, make sure your financial institution has the same approach.

  • Some institutions offer instant-issue debit cards, meaning when you open your account in-branch, you can actually select your debit card design and have it printed and activated for use before you even walk out of the building.

  • If you travel frequently, you might prefer the convenience of a financial institution that is part of a nationwide network. This can apply to both physical branch locations and ATMs. If you are a regular ATM user, you would benefit from finding an institution with a nationwide ATM network allowing you to find surcharge-free locations wherever you may be.

  • For the more technologically savvy individual, most credit unions and financial institutions have online or app-based platforms. Find the one that is easiest for you to use. Some platforms are better for Bill Pay, external transfers, and person to person payment, while others are primarily suitable for monitoring your account status.

  • In addition, if you use your account to write checks, you may want to select a checking account that provides free or discounted checks.

Research the Requirements

Determine if there are monthly maintenance or transaction fees associated with specific checking accounts. If you do find there are fees, don’t be afraid to ask the financial institution why and how often you can expect these charges to pop up.

Banks tend to tack on monthly account service fees, while credit unions have low to no monthly account service fees, because they are set up to serve members instead of shareholders.

For some, added fees may be enough to continue looking elsewhere, but for others, they are less of a concern. Understanding these specifics will help you avoid any surprises in the future and allow you to have a firm grasp on where your money is at all times.

Be prepared to have an initial deposit with you when you open your new account. The financial institution website should outline exactly how much the deposit should be, and whether a check or a routing number from another financial institution will suffice. In some cases, a mandatory direct deposit setup may be required.

Know Your Current Financial Situation

If you do decide to switch accounts or open a new checking account, you will want to be aware of the status of your finances before you make the switch.

  • Make a list of all expected transactions – this can include automatic payments for mortgage payments, student loans, cell phone bills, car payments, or household bills – just to name a few. Note what dates those charges typically come out of your account, and be sure to update the payment instructions with your new checking account routing and account number information as soon as you have it.

  • Don’t forget about your irregular expenses also linked to automatic payments, if you have them. For example, Amazon, PayPal, and Uber can all be tied to this.

  • Most home and vehicle owners have insurance payments paid automatically on an annual basis. Updating this with your new account information will be very important.

  • Keep both checking accounts (your old and new one) open and funded at the same time for at least a month to help you spot any payments you may have forgotten about and to ensure all bills are paid on time and in full. Doing this will protect you from overdraft fees and bounced payments – which can both be very costly.

Click here to download USCCU Checking Account Checklist

Opening a Checking Account Online

The ability to open a new checking account online is convenient for anyone constantly on-the-go. If the credit union or other financial institution of your choice allows you to open checking accounts online, you will usually access an application database with multiple sections where you will provide the required information.

Common Information Needed to Open a Checking Account

  • Identification Information (i.e. driver’s license, Social Security number, debit or credit cards with your name on them, bills or documents with your name and physical address, etc.)

  • Employment Data

  • Previous Checking Account Information to fund the new account (i.e. routing number, account number, etc.)

When you open an account online, you won’t have immediate access to solutions if you encounter problems during account setup. If you have any questions, make sure to call the financial institution, or consider opening your account in-person by visiting a local branch.

Opening a Checking Account In-Person

At a majority of credit unions or other financial institutions, you can also visit a branch near you to open your checking account. A customer service representative will walk you through the process step-by-step and answer any questions that may arise.

Whichever way you choose to open your new checking account, there are always resources at your fingertips to help you make the best decision. As long as you ask the right questions, prioritize your needs, and transition information over in a timely manner, you can make the switch in a few easy steps. Keep your old checking account open for a few months to counter any payment delays that may occur.

No matter which direction you decide to go, remember USCCU is here to help! Please stop by a branch or give us a call for more information.

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