By linking your bank account to others at the same bank or even at different banks, you can transfer money between accounts and make payments with ease. You won't need to visit a bank branch or write checks, and in many cases, it’s free to move funds electronically.
Whether you want to set up an automatic savings plan into a linked savings account at a different bank or move your PayPal funds to your bank account, setting up a link to your regular bank account is pretty simple. Here's an overview of what you should know before you start the process.
Linking External Bank Accounts
The easiest way to link accounts is online or with an app. Gather the following details about the account you want to link:
- Bank name
- Bank location (city and state are all you need to provide)
- ABA routing number
- Account number
Learn where to find the items above on your checks by reading The Parts of a Check. You can also get this information by contacting your bank or searching for those details while logged in to your account online.
While logged into your bank account, look for an option for transfers or external accounts. The option goes by a different name at every bank, but you’re likely to find the word “transfer” somewhere in most cases.
When you enter the area of the website used for transfers, you’ll want to choose add a new account (perhaps you have already linked other accounts, or you might need to create your first link). Click on the section that allows you to add an account.
After you provide your bank information, your financial institution needs to verify that you truly own the account. They’ll make several “trial deposits” to your external account, totaling less than one dollar, to see if you can confirm that the link was created correctly. Be sure to log into your external account within a few days to find these deposits.
Then, go back to the other account to verify exactly how much the deposits were for. If the amounts match, your link will be validated. If the deposits don’t match, or if they never go through, you need to try the process again. 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 have to provide your username and password for the external account you want to link to.
While providing your username and password for the external account you want to link to is faster, keep in mind that it adds one more opportunity for someone to steal your password and your data.
Setting Up Online Payments
If you're making or receiving payments (as opposed to moving funds between banks), the process is very similar—provide your account and routing numbers. You probably won't have to go through the same verification steps unless you can move large amounts of money into your account. For simple online bill payments or payments like direct deposit of your earnings, just double-check the routing and account numbers before you click "Submit."
Linking Accounts Within Your Bank or Credit Union
It's easy to move funds between your checking and savings accounts within the same bank or credit union, but it might be worth taking things a step further. If you're concerned about running out of money in your checking account, you may be able to set things up so your savings account serves as a backup for checking.
Instead of bouncing checks, missing payments, or paying steep overdraft fees, your bank can transfer funds from savings to checking to cover the payment.
Find out how much your bank charges for overdraft coverage service before you make a habit of using it (a $10 fee per transfer may apply, which adds up if you use it frequently).
Linking Other Types of 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 slightly different. When you’re dealing with accounts that are not bank accounts, you might have to use a special form (usually provided by whoever holds your non-bank account).
For payment services, such as PayPal, Venmo, or any peer-to-peer payment service that uses your bank account, the process is generally the same as if you were linking two bank accounts.
Linking Bank Accounts the Old-Fashioned Way
You may also be able to set up transfers and payments without going online. Occasionally, the old-fashioned way is even the only available method. Ask your financial institution if they will create a link if you provide a paper check. You may have to provide a check to the institution, either as a deposit or for a small amount (like $1), or you may have just need a voided check. One way or another, you’ll need to instruct the institution to create a link, either by using a form or by including a note with your check.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How secure is it to link bank accounts between institutions?
Generally, banks use the latest security technology to secure online transactions. Still, every time you use your financial information online, there is some level of risk involved. Before you link accounts online, make sure both institutions use the latest industry-standard security technology.
How long does it take to link bank accounts?
The time it takes to link your accounts will depend on the verification process your bank uses. Direct, online verification with your password can happen almost instantly. If the bank needs to conduct manual verification by making small deposits in your account, it can take several business days.