If bank fees get to be detrimental to the health...

If bank fees get to be detrimental to the health of a personal account, it can be beneficial to spend a couple of hours to find and open a new account with another establishment. Credit: iStock

Consumers looking to avoid new bank fees may balk at the thought of switching to a new financial institution, what with all those checking account direct deposits, automatic payments and data for online bill payees to set up at the new place. Still, "if you are an organized person, it is an investment of a few hours," says Howard Siegler of Old Westbury, who made the switch a year ago because of mounting fees.

First step. Deposit in the new account just enough money to avoid low balance fees, advises a "Moving Your Money to a New Checking Account" checklist on Consumers Union's website, defendyourdollars.org. Siegler says he opened new accounts -- business and personal -- with "a nominal deposit," keeping old accounts active to allow for checks to clear. He is setting up online payees with the new bank.

Ins and outs. As you plan to reroute direct deposits to the new account, determine how much money you'll need to leave in the old one to cover checks and the month's automatic transfers and payments, such as for mortgage loans and utilities. "I gave myself about two months" to be sure checks were cleared and all automatic payments had been switched, says David Kahn, 51, of Stony Brook, who moved to a new bank this summer.

Follow up. Advice on a checklist on Bankrate. com: Ask your former bank to "verify in writing" that the account has been "closed at your request with no balance outstanding." Also, "keep all closing statements for your records."