How to transition from your for-profit bank to a credit union.

Credit unions are rad.  They are not-for-profit organizations. Their members (i.e. YOU) are their customers, not shareholders, so they are always looking for ways to make you more money and to keep your business.  Here’s a Lifehacker article that goes into more detail on why you should switch.

These days, many of us have our checking accounts deeply integrated into our financial lives via automatic bill payment, direct deposit, and other services.  Untangling oneself can seem very daunting, which is why I took notes during my transition and am posting them publicly here.  It’s as easy as 1-2-3 (-4-5-6-7-8)!

  1. Find a credit union you qualify for.
  2. From the list you qualify for, evaluate which one would best suit your needs. Criteria for me included:
    • online banking tools
    • the ability to mail in my deposits and/or use direct deposit so I wouldn’t have to travel to their single branch every time I get a check
    • interest-bearing checking accounts
  3. Open your new account(s) at the credit union of your choice. Deposit enough money to get you through a month of bill paying. Be sure to walk out with, at the very least, your new account number and routing number. (I walked out with that plus 12 starter checks and a whole lot of literature).
  4. Transfer all bill paying, automatic payments, etc. over to the new credit union account. I actually went so far as to keep a running list of places to look for accounts I might have linked with my bank account. Then I just set aside an afternoon to go through all of it, account by account.  Don’t expect to get everything settled that very afternoon; several of my accounts were on the verge of clearing a payment, so I needed to wait for that to go through.  There were also a few that had auto-payment processes I could only change offline by calling or mailing something in.
  5. Wait a few weeks and watch the old account to make sure there are no other automatic payments being taken out that you forgot about or checks left to clear.  My tack was to wait one week after the last thing cleared to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
  6. Close your for-profit bank account. The bank employee who helps you do this may ask what your reasons are. Feel free to get as activisty as you want, but you don’t owe them an explanation.  Money speaks for itself.  Walk out (or hang up) with a check for your remaining balance.
  7. Deposit that check at your new credit union.
  8. Reap rewards.
How to transition from your for-profit bank to a credit union.

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