October 27, 2020

Close bank accounts without going to the bank, is it possible?

Opening a bank account seems easier and easier. In recent years, new technologies and development of digital banking they have opened up a possibility that until recently sounded far-fetched: accessing an account without having to go to any physical office, remotely, online. However, its counterpart – closing an account – is a procedure that even today, in most cases and despite the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, maintains its difficulties of yesteryear.

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Doing so without having to travel to a branch of the bank in question remains, for now, an uncommon alternative. Most banks require that the account holder (or all holders, if it is a shared account) report to an office to do this. Some even raise the requirement to go not to any branch, but to the one in which, at the time, the account was opened.

Banks that allow you to close the account without going to the office

The banks that generally do allow remote account closure – by phone or online – are the ones that they do not have customer service offices, explains Gabriel Rodríguez, one of the founders and managers of the financial products comparator Without Commissions.org. That is, the so-called neobanks, like N26, Revolut or Bnext. And also others that do have offices, but very few, such as EVO Banco, which only maintains one branch open in Madrid.

Something similar happens with a digital bank like Openbank, which allows you to close an account without having to go to any physical office location. What may be striking is that Openbank It belongs to the Santander group, which of course has hundreds of offices throughout the country and requires you to go to one of them in order to cancel an account. Something that also happens with BBVA, La Caixa, Bankia and other large and traditionally operating banks.

This happens, to a large extent, because there is no specific regulation that establishes how the procedure for closing bank accounts should be. Each entity, therefore, can determine its own rules in this regard. Due to this, at the time of canceling their account, the client must “submit to what is agreed in the contract”, as explained by the Bank Client Portal (PCB) of the Bank of Spain.

An alternative to closing the account by mail

The PCB itself points out that, if the contract “does not include the obligation to request the cancellation” of the account through a certain procedure, “alternative means may be used” to request closure. In this case, you can resort to “a writing with the original signature of the holders, sent by certified mail with acknowledgment of receipt or by burofax to the branch where the account was opened, or through the means provided by the entity “.

A shipment like that, by post, can be a solution in cases where the geographical distance, an illness or some other problem makes it very difficult or impossible for the account holder to go to the bank office. In this case, it may happen that the entity indicates to the client that, in addition to the signed document, the shipment includes cards, notebooks, check stubs or other documentation.

In any case, Gabriel Rodríguez, from the aforementioned portal SinComisiones.org, believes that the trend is that banks will evolve towards a model in which closing an account is as simple as opening it, since it considers that the current situation (which is very easy to open and difficult to close) is “unfair and abusive”.

What has to happen – he points out – is for banks to be able to say: “Just as you open an account in five minutes, you close it in ten. I don’t want you to close it, and I’m going to do everything possible so you don’t close it. , but I give you the possibility to do it. ”

Steps to close a bank account

It is important to know that, even if an account is zeroed and its holders do not make movements with it, it will remain active. And in the future could generate commission expenses, maintenance costs, etc. Therefore, if you are going to stop using it, it is always best to close it.

He Bank Client Portal (PCB) of the Bank of Spain points out that “we can cancel our account at any time, without the need for any prior notice and the entity must cancel it within 24 hours of our request”.

But before that management some steps have to be taken. Are detailed below.

  • Corroborate that there is no commitment to stay. This commitment is stipulated in some contracts in exchange for a financial benefit or a material gift at the time of opening the account, especially in the case of payroll accounts. In any case, although the period of permanence is still in force, it is possible to close the account, but the client must pay a penalty (established in the same contract). Based on this, you have to assess whether it is convenient for you to carry out the procedure at that time or wait for that period to end.
  • Cancel all debts. Of course, no financial institution allows a client to dissociate himself from it if he still has to pay him some amount, no matter how small. At this point all possible bank commissions enter, including a commission for the closing of the account itself (not all banks charge it, but some do).
  • Unlink direct debit receipts. In this way, two risks are avoided. On the one hand, that some fee or service remains unpaid. On the other hand, that at the last minute a last minute payment generates an overdraft and blocks the closure of the account.
  • Leave the account at zero. This can be done in two ways: by transferring to another account or withdrawing it in cash. If you choose a transfer, you must again be careful that this procedure does not generate management costs and, consequently, that the account is left with a negative balance, as this will prevent closure.

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