I recently opened a new account with a credit union and would really like to stop doing business with my current bank (BMO Harris), but before I do, I'm curious if there are any important things to consider. I do also have an account with Chase that I was only planning to keep open for another 6 months or so (to keep the sign-on bonus), but I may end up keeping that one longer if it simplifies this.

Things I've considered so far:

  • ATM access - credit union has a smaller network. Not a big deal as I don't normally deal in cash and can put up with a $4 out-of-network ATM charge if I really do need cash.
  • I do still have an auto-loan with BMO, but it's not really tied tightly to my BMO account (and I've considered refinancing that with my credit union anyway).
  • Not really considering any new loans/mortgages/etc., and the credit union rates tend to be better than BMO's anyway.
  • I used to have investments tied to M&I/BMO with a linked account, but that has already been changed, so I don't need to do any more business with them there.
  • Are there any 'loyalty' type programs where you get any bonus for being a customer for a long time? I was with M&I before BMO bought them out. I don't recall ever hearing any bank-loyalty programs, but I figure it's worth consideration.

Edit: I didn't mention initially that it was a checking account, but in reading jmort253's answer, I remembered some of the research I'd done in preparing to switch banks, and verifying that all checks written had been cashed or destroyed was certainly an important part of the process - I wouldn't want a check to bounce after closing the account.

  • It may be worth mentioning which country you are in (am assuming USA) - as a lot of the possible answer may depend on this (for instance, there is no charge for using ATMs in the UK, irrespective of whether you belong to the bank or not - and very few people still use checks). Apr 7, 2014 at 7:38
  • good call - USA tag added. Answers for other countries may still be relevant for other people coming here with the same question, but probably wouldn't get marked as the 'accepted' answer for this one. I think most people here use very few checks these days as well, but that can also make it even easier to forget the ones you have written, especially if it was a few months ago and your buddy at work hadn't cashed it yet (happened :p).
    – johnny
    Apr 7, 2014 at 14:17
  • It was a situation such a this (switching to a credit union) that I made "flow chart" of sorts that ID'd all my sources of income, where they went and which banks were connected to which bill pays and so forth. It is a pretty nice document to have. (It also pointed out how overcomplicated my accounts were)
    – MrChrister
    Apr 7, 2014 at 14:24

2 Answers 2


From my experience, payments from banks and other financial entities, such as loyalty programs, generally aren't as large as payments that go the other direction from consumer to bank. Thus, keeping a bank account open simply for some reward/loyalty points may just be changing your behavior for the wrong reasons.

The more important scenario is whether or not you have any automated ACH payments or whether your bank account is linked to other services. Perhaps the biggest tell that you're in the clear is when those transactions start occurring from your credit union account. For example:

  • If you had a direct deposit to your BMO bank account, make sure you see deposits start to appear in the credit union account.

  • If you're making automatic withdraws to an online savings or brokerage account, make sure those transfers are stopped and that you instead see them coming out of your new credit union account.

  • You shouldn't need to move the auto loan, but you will need to make sure you can pay it from the new account. Some financial advisors, such as in this BankRate article titled, Lenders can tap bank account for mortgage, even recommend keeping liabilities and assets at different locations. If for whatever reason your financial situation turned bleak, it would be more difficult for the bank to help itself to what's in your checking account.

  • To avoid getting nickel and dimed to death by "payment processing fees", I tend to pay insurance bills yearly or semi-annually. Thus, consider if there is anything that may be coming due in the next 6 months. If so, you might want to get your new account hooked up while you still have all the routing numbers and account numbers in your head. It's a pain to dig this stuff up while also rushing to not be late.

If all that is in order, close the account.

  • 3
    Yeah, good point about insurance (or other annual/semi-annual) payments. I've had the cu account for a little over four months now, and before the whole switch I made a list of all the deposits and withdrawals that would have to be switched (went back several months/maybe a year in mint). For the last 2.5 months, the only transactions have been manually-scheduled by me. Since it's a checking account, I also went through my checkbook to make sure I didn't have any outstanding checks.
    – johnny
    Apr 7, 2014 at 4:49
  • As an aside, this is probably a good time to create a written budget, if you don't already have one. That will help further identify anything you might have missed.
    – jmort253
    Apr 7, 2014 at 4:54
  • 1
    +1 and welcome to Money.SE. A great comprehensive answer. Hope to see you here again. Apr 7, 2014 at 12:22
  • 1
    I forgot about a little used PayPal account once, so that was a surprise when a subscription didn't renew.
    – MrChrister
    Apr 7, 2014 at 14:22

I'd add that bigger banks tend to have experience doing more complicated things. As an example, my local credit union (~12 offices), simply didn't have the software to wire money to a Canadian bank, as where Chase did.

The Canadian routing number wasn't in the format of a US institution, and their software user interface just didn't allow for that number to be entered.

Also, most smaller banks don't have international toll free (in-country) numbers for foreign access. Smaller banks also tend to have less sophisticated business banking tools and experience. If you take a Treasury bond approval to a small bank, they'll generally look at you like you have three heads.

So the international side of things is definitely in the favor of big banks; they have a lot more money to dump on services.

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