How easy is it to switch banks?

Taking control of your money is simpler than you may think.

Like many Queenslanders, I’d never really considered switching banks.

It all seemed like too much hassle – I’d been with one of the  ‘Big Four’ banks since primary school so had been banking with them ever since.

That was until I discovered I was being charged a $4 per month account keeping fee for each of my two transaction accounts and $3 per month for my savings account.
That’s $132 a year for the privilege of keeping my money with the bank, not including the ATM, international transaction and other fees also associated with the accounts.
It may not seem like a lot, but if I live to 85 (the life expectancy for Australian women) I can expect to pay another $7,260 just to keep my accounts open over the next 55 years.

After doing some research I found a bank that doesn’t charge account keeping fees or any of the other fees associated with my Big Four account, but it still seemed like a lot of effort to switch over.

Eventually I booked a holiday to a country that is phasing out cash and, faced with the possibility of dozens of international transaction fees, I made the switch to a bank that doesn’t charge account keeping or international transaction fees.

So, was it as hard to switch banks as I had imagined?

Once I had chosen a new bank the process was surprisingly easy: 

  1. Open up the new accounts

    I was able to do this online and had new debit cards arrived within a week. 
  2. Redirect your salary

    This was as easy as filling in a new payroll form.
  3. Redirect your direct debits

    Make a list of all your direct debits – don’t forget things that you might not use very often like toll tags or annual software subscriptions.
    This was the most time-consuming part of the switching process as I had to phone a couple of places to provide them with my new account details. I was able to switch all my other direct debits online.
    You can also ask your new bank to help you switch over your direct debits. They will contact your old bank to get a 13-month list of direct debits and credits so you can decide what you’d like to move over to your new account. You can also authorise your new bank to give your new account details to the companies you have direct debits with.
  4. Move your money over

    Online banking made this easy but my daily transaction limits meant I had to do this in multiple transactions over a couple of days.
  5. Close your old accounts

    I closed two of my accounts straight away but kept one open for a few weeks with a small amount of money it in case I had forgotten any direct debits (hello toll tag).
    I couldn’t close my accounts online, so I had to call my old bank or visit a branch. After 20 minutes on hold it took about two minutes to have my accounts closed – they didn’t make any attempts to keep me as a customer.
    I set a reminder to close my last account in four weeks’ time and, when the time came, I made another call to close my final account (only five minutes on hold this time).

It’s been six months since I switched banks and I’ve saved more than $66 in account keeping fees alone – more than enough to outweigh the hassle of switching banks.

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and not as specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice and does not take into account any person’s particular investment objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives, financial situations and needs.