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Learn to Link Bank Accounts

Electronic Trasfers Made Easy

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Money is more or less electronic these days, so why not make things easy for yourself? By linking your bank account to other accounts, you can transfer money between those accounts electronically. This can be done without making a trip to the branch or writing a check, and in most cases it’s free. All you have to do is know how to set up the link between accounts.

The simplest type of link is a link between two bank accounts. It is possible to link your bank account to other types of accounts (such as a brokerage account), but the process may be different. When you’re dealing with accounts that are not bank accounts, you often have to use a special form (usually provided by whoever holds your non-bank account) or use a different process.

For payment services, such as PayPal and any peer-to-peer payment service, the process is generally the same as if you were linking two bank accounts.

How to Link Accounts

The easiest way to link accounts is to do everything online. In fact, that may be your only option. When you’re logged into your bank account, look for an option involving “transfers” or external accounts. The option goes by a different name at every bank, but the word “transfer” appears somewhere in most cases.

When you enter the area of the website used for transfers, you’ll want to add a new account (perhaps you have already linked other accounts, or you might need to create your first link). Click on something that allows you to add an account.

Next, you’ll need to provide information about your external account. There will be a few text boxes, generally asking for the following information:

  • Bank name
  • Bank location (city and state are all you need to provide)
  • ABA Routing Number (from the bottom left corner of your checks)
  • Account Number (your own account number at the bank)
Learn where to find these items on your personal checks by reading The Parts of a Check.

After you provide this information, your financial institution will need to verify that you truly own the account. They’ll make a few “trial deposits” to your external account, totaling less than one dollar, just to see if you can confirm that the link was created correctly. Be sure to log in to your external account within a few days to look for these deposits. Then, go back to the other account and tell them how much the deposits were for. If the amounts match, your link will be validated. The deposits will be reversed soon after they’re made – you don’t get to keep the money.

At some banks, it’s possible to skip the trial deposits and create a link right away. To do this, you’ll have to provide your username and password for the external account you want to link to. While this is faster, it’s probably not a good idea; it just adds one more opportunity for your password to get stolen.

Linking Accounts the Old-Fashioned Way

You may also be able to link your bank account without going online (or that might be the only available method). Ask your financial institution if they will create a link if you provide a paper check. You may have to write a check to the institution – either as a deposit, or just for a small amount like one dollar – or you may be able to provide a voided check. One way or another, you’ll have to instruct the institution to create a link, either by using a form or by including a note with your check.

Sometimes, institutions automatically create a link when you open an account and make an initial deposit into the account by check (you typically agree to this somewhere in the fine print).

If your Bank Merges or Changes Names

What happens if one of your financial institutions changes names or is involved in a merger? In most cases you don’t have to do anything. The banks will communicate that information behind the scenes and they’ll keep everything straight. It is possible that you’ll have to update your account information someday – usually years after an ownership change, if ever.

Why Link Accounts?

Now that your accounts are linked, what can you do? There are numerous benefits of getting these accounts connected. You can:

  • Keep savings at the bank that offers the best rates
  • Prepare for major expenses (get money from online bank accounts) without dealing with paper checks, wire transfers, or trips to the branch
  • Set up automatic savings plans that run on autopilot (and are therefore more likely to succeed)
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