How to Close a Checking Account for FreeHere's how to avoid fees when closing a bank account to switch banks.

People close bank accounts for a variety of reasons: They might find a better bank, have too many accounts, move, or get married and apply somewhere else for a joint account. If you’re planning on switching banks and closing your account, make sure you do it without incurring fees.

Closing a bank account isn’t difficult, but big banks sometimes charge you for it. Don’t waste your money paying unnecessary bank fees to close your account if you’re changing banks. Follow these steps to do it for free.

How to Close a Bank Account Without Incurring Fees

To close your checking account, you’ll need to first open a new one, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Board. You want to have a new account to transfer any money into from your old account right away so you can continue paying your bills and your living expenses.

After you set up your new account and make sure it’s working properly, it’s time to now close your old account. Many institutions allow you to do that by visiting a branch or calling customer service, whereas some require a mail-in form.

Whether you close your bank account in person, online or over the phone, you’ll need to go through a few basic steps:

  1. Have both your account number and your ID handy when you close your account to save time.
  2. Make a list of all the automatic withdrawals and deposits associated with your account. Don’t forget any of your bill payments, which you’ll need to switch to your new account.
  3. Leave enough money in your old account to cover any outstanding checks, automatic payments or the monthly maintenance fee — so you don’t incur overdraft fees.
  4. Set up direct deposits and automatic withdrawals in your new account.
  5. Transfer your money from your old bank to your new bank.
  6. Close your old account per your institution’s guidelines, and then follow up to make sure it’s closed.

The second step is essential for avoiding fees when you close the account. You should record the dates of any transactions that are still outstanding in your old account. If you don’t have money to cover one, you’ll end up getting hit with a non-sufficient funds fee or NSF fee, a type of overdraft fee you want to avoid. In addition, schedule automatic payments in your new account to occur after you’ve deposited money or you’ll likely get hit with fees there, too.

Find Out: Pros and Cons of Banks — How to Decide Where to Put Your Money

How to Transfer Funds to Your New Account

When it’s time to transfer funds from your old account to your new one, don’t pay for a wire transfer or certified check. Instead, use one of these three methods to help avoid paying fees:

  • Cash out: If you don’t mind making an in-person visit, you can withdraw all of your funds and deposit them in your account at a local branch. By depositing cash into your new account, you’ll have immediate access to the money, too. Remember to leave some funds in the old account to cover any outstanding transactions.
  • Write a check: If you’re not comfortable carrying around a large amount of cash, you can write yourself a check from your old account and deposit it in the new one. Remember, the check will take some time to clear.
  • Transfer funds electronically: Although it might take a few days before an electronic transfer clears, the cheapest, easiest and safest way to get money into your new account from your old one is typically via an electronic transfer.

Related: How to Stop Automatic Withdrawals

How to Close a Checking Account at a Major Bank

Major banks typically spell out how to close an account on their websites. Take a look at three big banks and what they require to close an account.

How to Close a Wells Fargo Account

To close a checking account with no balance at Wells Fargo, you can call the bank at 800-869-3557 or send an email request via its website. To close a checking account with a balance, you must transfer the balance to another account then send an email request to close it. You can visit a branch if there are outstanding items you want posted to your account before you close it.

How to Close a Chase Account

If you want to close a Chase account, you must fill out a form, You’ll need to provide information including the name on the account, your address and the address where you want Chase to send you the remaining balance in the account. You can also visit a branch to close the account in person.

How to Close a Bank of America Account

To close your account with Bank of America, you must cancel all automatic debits and credits to your account and clear outstanding transactions. This bank requires you to visit a branch to speak with a personal banker and submit your request in writing. In addition, all account owners must sign the letter, and you must include instructions on how you want to receive your balance.

See: 10 Best Checking Accounts of 2017

Methods of closing accounts vary among institutions, so it’s a good idea to find out exactly what your bank or credit union requires. In addition, consider asking for a letter that confirms you closed the account, and keep it for your records. Last, make sure you destroy any checks and cards associated with your old account to protect yourself from potential check fraud.