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There are some big changes in the standard deduction and exemptions for 2018. We have all the numbers here and how the change will affect tax payers.

standard deduction

Most taxpayers can choose between itemizing tax deductions and taking the standard deduction. Itemizing, which requires accurate record-keeping, allows you to take deductions for specific expenditures from the tax year. The standard tax deduction is a fixed amount. Either way, your deductions reduce the amount of your taxable income. So they reduce the amount of overall taxes you owe.

Generally, if you can show that you’ve had more deductible expenses than the amount of the default standard deduction, it’s better to itemize. This way, you reduce your taxable income by more. So you’ll pay less in taxes.

However, if you don’t have enough itemized deductions, taking the standardized deduction works out best.

In 2013, only about 30% of U.S. households itemized their deductions in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. With 2018’s increased standard deduction amount, there’s a good chance that this number will go down even more. With a higher standard deduction, it will be more difficult for taxpayers to itemize enough to cross that threshold.

IRS publication 501 outlines each year’s deduction amounts. There are some cases where you can make adjustments to the standard deduction. For example, if you are 65 or older, or if you are blind, you get a higher standard deduction.

Taxpayers used to also be able to take a personal exemption of around $3,000, depending on the tax year. This provision has been repealed for 2018, so this is no longer available.

What Tax Reform Means for Deductions

The recent tax reform bill has significantly increased the standard deduction. It has also decreased the number of itemized deductions that are allowed. These factors combined mean more taxpayers will likely take the new, higher standard deduction.

Here’s a historical overview of what the standard deduction has been since 2010:

Tax Year 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
Single $12,000 $6,350 $6,300 $6,300 $6,200 $6,100 $5,950 $5,800 $5,700
Married filing jointly $24,000 $12,700 $12,600 $12,600 $12,400 $12,200 $11,900 $11,600 $11,400
Married filing separately $12,000 $6,350 $6,300 $6,300 $6,200 $6,100 $5,950 $5,800 $5,700
Head of household $18,000 $9,350 $9,300 $9,250 $9,100 $8,950 $8,700 $8,500 $8.400
Personal exemption Repealed $4,050 $4,050 $4,000 $3,950 $3,900 $3,800 $3,750 $3,650

As you can see, the standard deduction is now much higher. Another major increase came with the child tax credit. Now, taxpayers can deduct $2,000 per qualifying child, with a maximum refundable amount of $1,400. This tax credit starts to phase out for married taxpayers filing jointly at $400,000 in income and at $200,000 in income for all other filers.

What Does it Mean for You?

Of course, the main question for most tax filers is, “How does this affect me?” Well, it really depends on a huge combination of factors. Check out this article for an in-depth overview of the major changes the bill introduced. But here are a few bottom-line takeaways to consider:

  • You’re more likely to take the standard deduction. The higher standard deduction alone will be enough to push many taxpayers into taking it rather than itemizing. But taxpayers who used to itemize due to hefty mortgage interest, lots of charitable contributions, or high state and local income and property taxes may find those more-limited deductions aren’t enough to push them over the threshold now.
  • Taxes may be simpler in some ways but more complex in others. Taking the standard deduction is, indeed, simpler than itemizing. But it may take some time to hash out all the practical implications of this tax law. So be prepared for some complications along the way.

You can use calculators like this one to get an idea of exactly how the new tax bill is likely to affect you.

Remember, this tax law takes effect in 2018. So when you’re filing your 2017 taxes in early 2018, the 2017 deductions and personal exemption still apply.

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A good credit score can save you thousands of dollars in lower rates. To help boost your FICO score, here’s our guide on how to improve your credit score.

How to Improve Your Credit Score

Somewhere along the line, debt became “normal.” In fact, American consumer society has progressed to the point that access to debt is almost essential to living a middle-class life.

If owning a house is the modern American dream, most Americans wouldn’t be able to achieve this dream without the help of the finance industry. As a result, our finances–and our lifestyles–rely heavily on credit scores. Improving these scores not only opens the door to opportunities but can also save us a lot of money in the end.

Why It Matters

A credit score determines the types of interest rates we receive on loans. Because of this, a good credit score could save tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars throughout someone’s life. One estimate placed the value of a good credit score at $83,770!

It is also required if we want great financial products like cash back rewards credit cards. These are excellent ways to earn money on the things we buy anyway and, if handled responsibly, will never cost us a penny in interest. However, you need good credit in order to qualify.

Sure, it’s possible to live without ever using a financial service that requires a good credit score. A full cash-based life is not entirely out of the question. For most, though, it is simply unrealistic.

Because so many people need a good credit score to maintain the best financial condition, choices and actions that increase that credit score are incredibly important. Luckily, it’s not all that “hard” to do. It simply takes time and a concerted effort.

Let’s talk about a few of the first steps you should take when attempting to rebuild or improve your credit score.

1. Look for Mistakes in Your Credit Report

The fastest (and often, biggest) fix for improving your credit score is something most consumers have never done: simply correcting errors.

Credit scores are driven by credit reports. Credit reports are driven by the information that lenders and card issuers send them. More often than one might expect, lenders have incorrect information. Credit bureaus make mistakes, as well.

There is little excuse for not checking all three credit reports at least once a year. In fact, you’re entitled to one from each bureau–Experian, Equifax, and Transunion–every twelve months, free of charge.

Be sure to obtain these and pick through them. Pay attention to high balances, late payment marks, and other derogatory reports. If something doesn’t seem correct or match your records, give them a call.

Correcting a problem on a credit report can result in a credit score increase of from ten to a hundred points or more.

How to Do It

Once each year, visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get your three free credit reports. Don’t Google “free credit report.” You’ll get a slew of solicitous results, many of which are scams or paid sites. AnnualCreditReport.com is the only government-approved site for your yearly, complimentary reports.

Rather than getting all three at the same time, you can spread this out so that you check a different report every four months. However, if you’re looking for an immediate change and you haven’t looked in the past year, it doesn’t hurt to get it all done at once.

After you retrieve your credit reports and avoid the gratuitous up-selling, check every piece of data on each report for accuracy. Any problem with your personal data can be corrected easily. If there’s a negative item on your credit report that does not apply to you, you have a few options.

You can call the lender directly, especially if it’s an account that’s still open, and let them know that there is an error. Be ready to provide any sort of proof that you may have (statements, cleared checks, etc). If they are unable or unwilling to help, though, you will need to file a dispute with the reporting bureau.

Reporting an error on your credit with each bureau is a much more simplified process than it was just a few years ago. You can either send a letter through the mail or go online and open a dispute. Whether online or through snail mail, include any documentation you have to support your claim.

The credit bureau will then reach out to the creditor in question, and they’ll have thirty days to respond.

Lingering Reports

Some negative items are supposed to drop off your credit report after a certain number of years, automatically. Sometimes, though, the bureaus overlook this on individual credit reports until someone brings it to their attention. It pays to be vigilant in this situation.

Here are a few of the common reports that should fall off on their own. Be sure to check your report and confirm that your own negative items did indeed disappear as planned.

  • Old bankruptcies must be removed from your credit report after ten years.
  • Lawsuits and judgments must be removed after seven years, even if you haven’t fulfilled the court order.
  • Paid tax liens remain for seven years, and unpaid liens remain for fifteen.
  • If you are divorced and your spouse incurred debt when you weren’t married–either before you were married or after your divorce–it should not appear on your report.

If any of the above situations apply to you, and the time period for which the items need to remain on the report has passed, contact the bureau as soon as possible. They will have the negative items removed.

The best part? Your credit scores should improve almost immediately.

2. Work On the Big Picture

Keep in mind there isn’t just one credit score. Each bureau has their own formulas and uses their own data, and there are several varieties published by each bureau.

FICO8 and FICO9 are the most popular credit scores. When lenders, landlords, employers, and anyone else checking your credit your history, though, they could be looking at any one of several sets of data.

Differences in these histories can lead to different credit scores. You never really know which version they are going to pull, so it pays to work on your overall credit picture. While there are differences in scale and exact score formula, the same approaches to the use of money and credit can improve your score across all brands.

You can maintain a good credit score by developing a long history of responsible credit use, not using too much credit, and having a good mix of types of credit. Here are some specific tips:

Pay your bills on time

Paying bills late can negatively affect your score in a big way. Plus, those negative reports will stay on your credit for a whole seven years. Avoiding late payments altogether is imperative for building up (or repairing) your credit score.

Unpaid bills can begin to affect your credit immediately. Debts that go to collections will stay on your report for seven years, even if you then go back and pay them off. Debt payments that are overdue by 30, 60, or 90 days will be noted as such, with each notation having an increasingly negative effect on your score.

Bottom line: pay bills on time, every time and even consider using auto-pay so you never forget. This will also save you wasted money on late fees!

Keep credit card balances low

The ratio of your debt to your available lines of credit affects your score. The higher the ratio, the higher your effect on your score. This is why it’s important to hold as little debt as possible from month-to-month, so you can reduce this ratio and improve your credit.

Keep this in mind if you choose to consolidate multiple credit cards into fewer. This can be done by either by closing old, unused cards or transferring balances and then closing the paid-off card. Doing so can result in the same level of debt but a lower level of available credit, which essentially increases that debt-to-credit ratio… which would actually affect your score negatively!

Don’t open unnecessary accounts

Opening new credit card accounts can be tempting; believe me, I know. Being at a sales counter in a store and being offered a 15 or 20% discount “just for applying” for a store credit card can be enticing. After all, that can be a lot of money saved.

Of course, there is downside to this. Opening too many new credit card accounts will lower your credit score, thanks to both hard inquiries and your average age of accounts. Oh, and if you open (or apply for) too many accounts in a short period of time, you can begin to look like a risk to creditors.

Be prudent when opening new accounts. Make sure it’s a card you need and has great benefits, and don’t open too many over a short span of time.

Manage your credit cards responsibly

Use cards properly by paying off the balances quickly and taking care of installment loans. Doing this builds up credit history, and the longer you’re responsible with you’re accounts, the higher your credit score rises.

Banks will see someone with a favorable credit history as less risk, compared to an individual with no history.  Take advantage of great balance transfer credit cards if you’re having trouble paying down your credit card debt.

Closing an account doesn’t help

If you made mistakes in the past, they won’t go away from the credit report simply by closing the account. Some items can stay on the report (and be factored into your score) long after you’ve reformed your ways.

Keep your oldest credit history

The age of your credit history is an important factor in your score. So, even if you don’t like the terms on a certain credit card, it may not be a good idea to cancel it.

If you have a credit card with poor terms, that doesn’t earn you rewards, or for a store where you no longer shop, keep it open. There’s no need to continue using the card, but it’s not worth the impact on your credit to close it. Some cards require you to use it ever-so-often or they’ll automatically close the account for you; be sure to ask about their own policies.

There are some cards that may be worth closing, though. Say the card has an annual fee and doesn’t have enough benefits to make up for that expense. In that case, you should call customer service and ask to either downgrade the card to a different product (if available) or close the account to avoid the fee.

Be careful, though, especially when closing older accounts. Doing so will have an even greater impact on your credit than closing a newer account, due to the average age of accounts growing shorter.

3. Be Patient

Improving your credit takes time. Aside from fixing errors, there is no “quick fix” to building a good score.

However, if you work hard at decreasing (or eliminating debt), avoiding excessive inquiries, and always paying bills on time, your score will slowly climb. The longer your accounts are open and in good standing, the higher your credit will rise. Your limits will likely increase, as well, which will further improve your score.

Before you know it, you’ll not only have great financial habits established, but a healthy credit score to match.

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Clipping coupons can save you money. It’s also a pain. Here’s how you can save money without coupons or the hassle that comes with them.

save money without coupons

The retail industry has everyone fooled. Millions of people spend their time scouring for deals, clipping coupons from the newspaper, plugging into the latest mobile deal applications, and sharing their finds on Facebook to recruit friends for group deals. Meanwhile, the companies on the other side of the transaction are generating higher profits.

Can anyone really complain? Consumers are saving more money than ever and yet retailers are raking in more revenue. Even as we’re still trying to recover from the employment effects of the recession and economists say the middle class doesn’t have enough to spend to stimulate the economy on their own, the industry is thriving.

The National Retail Federation won’t release its annual holiday predictions for a couple more weeks. But I bet when it does, they’ll expect plenty of growth over last year. The NRF tends to be very optimistic heading into the holiday season. But they haven’t yet misplaced their trust in consumers’ capacity to spend.

It seems like this should be impossible. How can consumers be saving more while retailers are bringing in more revenue? Well, there are two important assumptions to overcome.

1. Saving more is not the same thing as spending less.

Retailers will continue offering sales, deals, and coupons because these tricks simply encourage consumers to spend more. A perceived deal can help convince a spender to open his wallet or swipe her credit card when they might not have otherwise. This isn’t the result only on the large scale. It’s proven behavioral finance that holds true on an individual basis.

A recent study found that heavy digital coupon users spend more than twice as much per year as non-coupon users. If you use coupons, you spend more, not less. You are not saving money. It’s true you’re getting more for the money you are spending. But research clearly shows you wouldn’t be spending that money in the first place without the coupons.

The only way to save money is to spend less. And most of the time using coupons doesn’t actually help you reach that goal.

2. It’s a zero-sum game.

Economists talk about the growth of wealth not being zero-sum. That is, when some individuals become more wealthy, another group doesn’t necessarily have to become less wealthy. The economy can grow and, in theory, lift everyone who plays a part in it.

Another way of illustrating the lack of the zero-sum game in the economy is by talking about wealth re-distribution upwards. Consumerism is how money from the middle class and lower goes through a process that benefits the corporate class–the executives in large corporations, private equity firms, and preferred shareholders. If the transaction is reduced to its basic components, it looks like money is simply moving from consumers to producers, building more wealth for one group of society while keeping a larger group financially dependent.

Economists agree the process is more complex than this. And as producers show their relevance to society, they create enough economic substance, adding to the full “pie” to match or exceed the wealth that flows in their direction.

But on an individual level, the macroeconomic reality isn’t relevant. The bottom line is that when you spend money, you have less money. What you spend as a consumer doesn’t come back to you in the form of greater potential for building wealth. Every purchase eats into your wealth. The more you spend on movies and concerts, the less you’ll have available for food, rent, and long-term savings.

When you understand the above factors, you’re better able to make choices that actually help you spend less money, rather than just “saving money.”

How to Actually Save Money

So what kinds of decisions should you make instead of using coupons? Try these:

1. Shop less often.

I could buy some new items every time I go shopping for clothes. A few weeks ago, I found myself at an outlet center near the New Jersey shore. It’s hard to resist some of the nice clothes I can find on sale. I’m tempted to buy something every time I’m shopping, which is completely unnecessary. If I just don’t go, I wouldn’t buy anything.

This counts for necessities, too. How often do you buy a few extras at the grocery store? Cutting back to two or three trips a month can help you avoid this.

2. Conserve what you have.

A corollary to the above is that you can make what you already own last longer. In terms of clothing, I still had a lot of my clothing from college–and even some tee-shirts from high school. I was probably thirty-five years old when I finally went through and eliminated some of the stuff I didn’t want to or could no longer wear.

But because for many years I had no extra money to spend, I simply made do with what I had. It wasn’t until I had some extra income that I decided it was time to upgrade my wardrobe — although it helped that I wasn’t going into an office every day.

Again, this can also apply to food. Clean out the fridge and pantry and eat up the leftovers before you grocery shop!

3. Buy in bulk.

From a behavioral finance perspective, there is one trick that does work to spend less money over the long term: buying in bulk. But there’s a trade-off. You need to store what you buy. Having more stuff takes up extra space, requiring a larger living space than you might otherwise need.

And there’s an up-front cost. You’re spending more money today than you normally would. It reduces your cost in the future. But a lot of people living paycheck-to-paycheck can’t necessarily handle larger up-front expenses.

However, there are some great bulk buying options on the market today, including websites like Boxed. These can let you get just a few things in bulk at a time. And they don’t necessarily have an annual membership fee. So if you can buy toilet paper in bulk this month and paper towel next, over time you can build a stockpile. And this can save you some serious cash.

4. Reconsider your needs and wants.

Many times we’re spending more than we need to spend because we haven’t given a lot of thought to whether a purchase is necessary. Sure, it’s sometimes fine to spend unnecessary money for something you don’t really need. This is especially true as you get closer to the goal of becoming financially independent!

But you shouldn’t be in the habit of automatically gratifying your every whim. Take some time. Add a delay into the process. Wait twenty-four hours if you find yourself with the urge to make an impulsive decision. This provides an opportunity to consider your other options or how that money could be otherwise utilized.

And, of course, it’s always a good idea to shop around. Sometimes a quick online search can net you serious savings on something you’re planning to purchase.

5. Use coupons and loyalty programs wisely.

I know. I just said that you shouldn’t use coupons. But that’s not the case 100 percent of the time.

One smart option is to look for coupons after you’ve decided to purchase something. This is easier with apps like Honey. It searches for coupon codes while you’re in the checkout process online. So you can shop as if you were not going to use coupons. But then if you get them, you can go on your merry way, having saved some money.

There’s something similar to be said for rewards programs. For instance, I get loyalty rewards offers from Van Heusen, one of my favorite clothing brands. But typically, I have to spend those rewards within a certain amount of time. Sure, that $20 towards my next purchase could buy a new shirt. But if I start shopping, I’ll likely spend a lot more than that. And that’s money I hadn’t planned on spending originally.

However, sometimes these types of “spend it before it’s gone” deals can be worth signing up for. For instance, kids’ clothing stores often have these programs in place. And since kids go through clothes so quickly, these rewards can add up quickly. Just use them wisely. Buy your kids’ clothing in small batches, rather than large shopping sprees. And buy sizes ahead if you get good discounts that expire within a certain time frame.

And, of course, you should always be on the lookout for similar brands that offer the same stuff at a cheaper price. Loyalty programs can trap you by keeping you from shopping around. So don’t feel tied down to a certain retailer because of their loyalty program.

6. Use a budget.

There are as many different ways to budget as there are people. But the bottom line is that a budget is a spending plan. When you take time to plan out your spending for the month (or week or even year), you’ll have some goals in mind. And you’ll know–if you’re tracking your spending–when you’re spending outside of the budget.

This can be a powerful tool to curb unnecessary spending. And it plays into tip four above. When you have to plan out each month’s spending, you won’t let yourself jump on “deals” this month just because they exist. So that sale makes you feel like you need a new pair of jeans and a sweater? Great! Put that in next month’s budget, and buy it then!

It’s tempting for any particular person to believe that they are better than the average: Overall, people who use coupons end up spending more money, but I’m the exception. Well, that’s always a possibility, just as it’s possible that you’re an above-average driver. But it’s not likely, just as studies show that more than half of the population believes they’re better drivers than average. This is the illusory superiority cognitive bias.

Ditch the coupons, and stop wasting your time on efforts that don’t actually save money. Consider your choices, and make decisions about your shopping behavior while keeping in mind the tools and techniques that do improve your financial situation over the long term.

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Switching banks doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Here’s how to change banks the easy way (and we’ve included a downloadable checklist)

how to change banks

With some banks changing their policies to be less consumer-oriented, I’ve received several questions about the logistics of switching banks. In previous decades, closing your account at one bank and opening an account at another was a simple process. All that was required was to walk into one branch and ask to close your account. Then take your cash or cashier’s check to a different location and open a new account with your deposit.

Today it’s not so simple. Banks now offer direct deposits, pre-authorized electronic withdrawals, and online bill payments. While these are great services, they tie you to your financial institution.

There is a financial risk involved too. If you neglect to change your banking information with a creditor, your payment could bounce. This, in turn, could result in late fees, insufficient fund fees, and perhaps even cancellation of your services.

If you’ve taken a modern approach to banking, with automated and electronic payments, you’ll need to start planning in advance. Here are the priorities, if you’ve already chosen your new bank. To compare banks, read through the reviews available here on Consumerism Commentary.

Do You Need to Change Banks?

Before addressing how to change banks, the first question is whether you should. If the primary concern is a bank’s low interest rates, you may have another option.

Many people today keep their brick and mortar bank, even with it’s low rates. They then open an online savings account for the higher rates. An added benefit is that the money saved is at a separate financial institution. That makes it a little bit harder to spend (if your goal is to save money).

You’ll find our list of the best savings accounts here, and our best overall bank rates here.

How to Switch Banks in 6 Easy Steps

Download the Consumerism Commentary Bank Switch Kit to help you organize the information you’ll need. The link is at the bottom of this article.

Step 1. Open the new account with appropriate minimums

Before you can change the account information stored with creditors, you’ll need to have your new bank’s routing (ABA) number and your new account number. For a short period of time, both your old bank account and your new bank account will be active. This ensures that all your payments go through and all your deposits are received during the transition period. Determine which types of accounts you need at your new bank. You’ll also need the minimum required to open the accounts ready to deposit.

If you had debit cards, ATM cards, check cards, deposit slips, or paper checks with your old account, don’t forget to order the same when you open your new account.

Download the Bank Switch Kit for a convenient way to keep track of your new banking information.

Step 2. Change your direct deposit information

It could take as many as two pay periods for your new direct deposit instructions to take effect. It could take two to four weeks after requesting the change to your direct deposit before you receive a paycheck at your new bank.

Most employers have their own forms for submitting changes to direct deposit, but I’ve included a generic form in the Bank Switch Kit that most human resources should be able to accept. Many employers have the ability to accept direct deposit instructions online, so check with your employer as soon as possible.

This is the slowest aspect of moving from one bank to another, so start as soon as you’ve opened your new accounts.

Step 3. Adjust your automated bill payments

You’ve likely configured many of your monthly financial obligations to withdraw money from your bank accounts. You’ll need to change this banking information one vendor at a time without missing any possible automated withdrawals. Review your past three or four banking statements to help your recollection of all the bills that are paid automatically.

Here’s a list of some of the most common bills that allow automated payments from your bank accounts.

  • rent or mortgage.
  • power bills (electricity or gas).
  • telephone bills (land line and mobile phone).
  • water and sewer bills.
  • property taxes.
  • income taxes, if you have enrolled in the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) or your state’s electronic payment system.
  • car, home, and life insurance.
  • other insurance payments.
  • credit card bills.
  • payments to student loans.
  • payments to car loans.

The downloadable bank switch kit has a checklist where you can indicate the date you called to have your banking information changed. When you call, email, or complete this change online, make sure you know when the changes will take effect. Most of the time, the change is immediate, but if you have a payment already pending using your old bank account’s information, it might not be until the following month that the vendor applies the new banking information.

If you’ve opened your new bank account with just the minimum required to avoid fees, keep in mind that you may need to transfer more money from your to cover your bills.

Step 4. Update any linked bank accounts or investments

The ability to begin investing using automated bank transfers has helped many people begin to save for retirement — or the future in general — without having a large sum to devote to the investment immediately. It’s easy to forget about these investments and transfers. I have had a weekly $15 transfer from my primary checking account to another bank’s savings account for years, and it would be easy to forget this without reviewing my transactions each month. Updating information regarding your linked accounts serves two purposes:

  • to ensure your accounts don’t try to send money to or withdraw money from the account you intend to close, and
  • to ensure you don’t miss any saving or investment opportunities as you rearrange your bank accounts.

First, as mentioned above, link the new bank account to your old bank account to ensure you can transfer money to your new account at will. This will ensure you have enough funds in the account to cover all the bills you’ve transitioned in the previous step. Keep in mind that savings accounts are limited to six on-demand withdrawals per month. If you exceed that number, the bank may charge you fees or close your account before you’re ready.

Pay attention to your automated investments to your IRA, transfers to your high-yield savings accounts, and investments to your kids’ education funds. Download the Bank Switch Kit for a complete list of possible linked accounts.

Step 5. Wait and close your old bank account

First take the time to ensure that your old bank account has been inactive. You don’t want any new deposits or withdrawals showing up after you close the account. Then follow your bank’s process for closing your account.

In most cases, you can walk into any branch with proper identification for closing your account. In some cases, banks require you call a telephone number. If that is the case, they might want you to talk to a “retention specialist” who will do his or her best to keep you from closing your account. They may offer you a better deal than you may be receiving. It’s best to ignore these offers and stick to your resolution.

If you are required to close your account by phone or by mail, the only way you may be able to receive your deposited money is through a check sent to the address your bank has on file for your account. This is an imperfect process; it would be much better to walk into a branch and walk out with your money. It would frighten me if I had to close a bank account with a significant sum of money and wait for a check for the amount to arrive in the mail.

Once you’ve received the check, make sure the bank has provided the full balance. Your balance at the end of the statement or online should be zero. Ensure you’ve received any accrued interest your account would have earned. In some cases, you may need to time the closing of your bank account to ensure you don’t miss on any substantial interest that might be due to you if your bank does not accrue interest on a daily basis.

The Consumerism Commentary Bank Switch Kit available for download includes a generic letter you may send to your bank in order to close your account.

Step 6. Destroy old forms

Shred any debit cards and deposit slips associated with your old account once you receive confirmation that your old bank has closed your account. Get rid of your paper checks and any endorsement stamps that you may have that include your bank number.

With this step, you can celebrate the moment you are now free from a relationship you are better off without. Don’t forget to monitor your new account and your bills closely over the next few months to ensure you haven’t missed anything. If you find a problem quickly, you may be able to resolve it without needing to pay any penalties (or have penalties reversed if they are charged automatically).

Download the Bank Switch Kit and Checklist

Bank Switch Kit and ChecklistDownload the Consumerism Commentary Bank Switch Kit (Version 1.0α). Adobe Reader or another program that displays and prints Portable Document Format (PDF) files is required.

This is a work in progress. Please feel free to share your feedback. I’ll continue to revise the Kit for more consumers who wish to leave one bank in favor of another.

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11 Reasons to Sell Your Business

by Luke Landes
Reasons to Sell Your Business

People become entrepreneurs for a variety of reasons. Maybe you just stumbled into starting your own business when you built a blog that started making money. Or maybe you inherited a family business, or started a business intentionally. Whatever your reasons for starting and running a business, it’s a good idea to consider your exit […]

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One Million Dollars Isn’t What It Used to Be

by Luke Landes

There was once a time when the word “millionaire” carried cachet. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word was first used in French in the early eighteenth century and in English nearly a century later. Regardless of your station in French society in 1719, achieving a net worth of one million livres was notable. […]

24 comments Read the full article →

Is Being a Landlord the Right Move for You?

by Luke Landes

Given the option, owning assets that produce income is a much better financial strategy than owning assets that generate expenses. If you own a house or apartment for your own residence, for example, you have a lot of expenses. You will need to pay for maintenance, repairs, taxes, mortgage interest, landscaping, and utilities. Or you […]

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The Latte Factor: Your Spending Reflects Your Priorities

by Luke Landes

The concept of the Latte Factor is one of the most divisive in personal finance. Money gurus get so worked up over whether the Latte Factor is a valuable lesson in money management, that one might think the issue were as important as the national debt. Most of the time, passionate responses pertaining to the […]

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Should the US Postal Service Offer Basic Financial Services?

by Luke Landes

The U.S. Postal Service could offer basic banking services to customers, many of whom do not have reliable and affordable access to mainstream banking products like savings accounts and forms of credit. From the moment I heard this, it sounded like a bad idea. Not long ago, discussions about the U.S. Postal Service focused on […]

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With More Options for Marriage, Income Inequality Increases

by Luke Landes

An article on The Atlantic brought new research on the growth of income inequality to my attention. The article explains that the cause of today’s income disparity between the wealthy and the rest of the country is explained by the plot of the film When Harry Met Sally — or the increasingly common occurrence of […]

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