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Is Pokemon Bank Finally Free? An In-Depth Guide to Pokemon Apps and Storage

For nearly a decade, Pokemon trainers have relied on Pokemon Bank to store and trade their prized collections across games. With the upcoming shift to a free model, fans have many questions around how to manage their Pokemon. This guide from a Pokemon data expert will break down everything you need to know about Pokemon Bank, Pokemon Home, avoiding data loss, and securely transferring your Pokemon into the future.

What is Pokemon Bank and Why Does it Cost Money?

Pokemon Bank is a cloud-based storage system that functions as the hub for transferring Pokemon between compatible Nintendo 3DS, 2DS, Nintendo DS, and Game Boy Advance games. It was first launched in 2013 as a paid subscription service costing $4.99 annually.

So why did Pokemon Bank charge for access, when many other free storage apps and games exist? Running servers to store millions of Pokemon for players worldwide and ensuring reliable connectivity is no small expense. The ongoing costs included:

  • Large server capacity and 24/7 uptime
  • Regular security updates and infrastructure maintenance
  • Customer support teams assisting players
  • Consistent quality and performance of service

These behind-the-scenes requirements justified the yearly subscription fee. However, as 3DS systems decline, The Pokemon Company made the prudent choice to transition Pokemon Bank to a free model so fans can continue enjoying it.

Key Features of Pokemon Bank

For its loyal subscribers, Pokemon Bank delivered robust storage and trading capabilities:

  • Store Up to 3,000 Pokemon – Far more than even the largest game cartridges can hold
  • Customizable Box Organization – Arrange Pokemon exactly how you like
  • Easy Transfers Between Generations – Move Pokemon from retro classics up to 3DS
  • Wonder Trade System – Trade randomly with other players for surprise gifts
  • Global Trade Station – Seek and request specific Pokemon trades worldwide
  • Online Accessibility – Manage Pokemon collections from any mobile device or system

While Pokemon Bank requires a 3DS system to actually move Pokemon in and out, the web-based dashboard gave users convenient remote oversight of their boxes. For collectors and completionists, this was a game-changer.

Pokemon Bank Will Officially Become Free March 28, 2023

The Pokemon Company recently announced that Pokemon Bank will permanently shift to a free-to-use model on March 28, 2023. After this definitive date, the Pokemon Bank application and its companion app Poke Transporter will no longer charge subscription fees.

Both existing and new players with a Nintendo 3DS will be able to freely access all Pokemon Bank features. The apps will become free downloads on the 3DS eShop. This transition is part of the larger sunsetting of 3DS services as Nintendo shifts focus to the Switch console.

Why Pokemon Bank Is Going Free

Pokemon Bank moving to a free access model coincides with major changes for the 3DS platform:

  • The 3DS eShop will close down permanently in March 2023
  • Online services for 3DS games are winding down
  • Active development has ceased for new 3DS games and apps

To preserve fans‘ ability to access existing Pokemon apps before discontinuation, removing all fees became the best path forward.

The Pokemon Company likely also wanted to retain subscriber trust by avoiding a scenario where players‘ Pokemon collections were locked away or inaccessible. This goodwill gesture keeps Pokemon Bank functional while still generating brand loyalty.

Timeline of Key Dates for Pokemon Bank

Here are the major milestones in Pokemon Bank‘s transition over the last decade:

  • December 2013 – Pokemon Bank and Transporter launched as paid apps for 3DS
  • January 2017 – Pokemon Bank compatibility added for Pokemon Sun/Moon
  • January 2022 – Pokemon Home released for Nintendo Switch
  • March 2023 – Nintendo 3DS eShop will close down
  • March 28, 2023 – Pokemon Bank goes free-to-use for all
  • Late 2023 – Pokemon Bank will be discontinued

This timeline shows Pokemon Bank‘s run first as a paid service, then as a free legacy app before its retirement. The Pokemon franchise is evolving, but existing software like Bank still has usefulness if made accessible.

What Happens if Your Pokemon Bank Subscription Lapses?

Previously, an expired Pokemon Bank subscription meant players lost access to all but their last 30 deposited Pokemon. Once Pokemon Bank becomes free, lapsed subscriptions will no longer restrict Pokemon withdrawals.

However, after the eventual discontinuation of Pokemon Bank (projected for late 2023), any Pokemon left in the cloud will be lost. To avoid this outcome, collectors should withdraw all Pokemon stores as the closure nears.

Withdrawing Pokemon from Lapsed Pokemon Bank Accounts

If faced with an expired subscription, players can still regain limited access by:

  1. Attempting to open Pokemon Bank when prompted about the lapse
  2. Opting not to renew when given the choice
  3. Following instructions to launch Pokemon Bank in withdrawal-only mode

While cumbersome, this process does allow players to rescue their 30 most recent Pokemon. So even with a lapsed membership, no Pokemon should ultimately be stranded.

How to Transfer Pokemon into Pokemon Bank

Pokemon Bank integrates with a wide range of current and legacy Nintendo handheld games. Here are tips for moving your Pokemon off original game cartridges and into cloud storage:

Transferring from 3DS/2DS Games

The most direct method is to simply open your 3DS Pokemon game and Pokemon Bank side-by-side in dual screen mode. You can then:

  • View Pokemon Boxes in both apps simultaneously
  • Select desired Pokemon in your game
  • Drag and drop Pokemon icons into cloud boxes

This easy drag-and-drop process speeds up large transfers.

Migrating Older Generation Pokemon Up to Bank

Transferring beyond 3DS requires use of the companion app Poke Transporter. This utility lets you trade forward from Nintendo DS and GameBoy Advance games by:

  1. Inserting your retro game cartridge into the 3DS system
  2. Opening Poke Transporter to transfer Pokemon into chosen 3DS game
  3. Using Pokemon Bank to finally move 3DS Pokemon into cloud boxes

This multi-step process allows you to gradually migrate legacy Pokemon up through the generations into modern storage.

Moving Pokemon from Bank to Pokemon Home on Nintendo Switch

With Pokemon Bank ending service soon, many players are eager to move their Pokemon into the new Pokemon Home app for Nintendo Switch. Luckily, Pokemon can be transferred from 3DS directly to Switch in two main ways:

Via Unique Transfer Key

Pokemon Bank provides an automatically generated Passcode and Moving Key within the app:

  1. Launch Pokemon Home on your Switch
  2. Access Get with Code and enter the Pokemon Bank info
  3. Complete prompts to connect accounts and enable transfers

This code exchange links accounts without needing both systems in hand.

Direct Transfers Between Linked Apps

If you have access to both 3DS and Switch:

  1. Download Pokemon Home to your 3DS
  2. Open both apps with your accounts active
  3. Select the Pokemon to transfer and initiate move between systems

Having both apps on one console allows quickest migration to Switch.

Can You Still Use Pokemon Bank Without a Subscription?

Once Pokemon Bank goes fully free on March 28, 2023, no active subscription will be needed. Users can simply re-download it from the 3DS eShop.

Before that transition date, players can only make limited withdrawals from Bank by refusing to renew an expired pass when prompted. This grants access to the most recent 30 Pokemon.

So with or without a paid membership, users should be able to regain access to their Pokemon even if lapsed. But active renewal is recommended until March to enjoy full features.

Avoid Losing Pokemon When Moving Between Apps

While connecting platforms offers exciting ways to expand your Pokemon adventure, it does come with the risk of lost Pokemon if not handled carefully. Follow these tips to keep your Pokemon secure when transferring or canceling services:

  • Withdraw all Pokemon into a game before letting a Bank subscription expire
  • Don‘t overwrite game save files after moving Pokemon into Bank
  • Make absolutely sure transfers are complete before deleting originals
  • Don‘t assume Pokemon arrived safely – verify new arrivals
  • Migrate to new platforms early to avoid rushed endings

By taking precautions and verifying your data, you can avoid having Pokemon trapped or vanished into the void. Patience prevents Pavel‘s Patrat from being permanently lost!

Pokemon Home Takes the Stage on Nintendo Switch

With Pokemon Bank winding down, Nintendo Switch owners can look to Pokemon Home as the new go-to hub for Pokemon management. Home offers many of the same handy features as Bank with greater ties into Switch gameplay:

  • Mobile Support – Access collections on the go via iOS/Android
  • Easy Transfers – Move Pokemon freely between Switch games
  • Enhanced Trading – Wonder Box and GTS with wider player pools
  • Room Customization – Creative ways to show off Pokemon
  • Community Feed – Share posts and learn new strategies

Pokemon Home also boasts nearly double the storage at 5,600 Pokemon compared to Bank‘s 3,000 limit. And direct imports from popular mobile game Pokemon Go sweeten the offering even further.

As the tide shifts to Switch, Pokemon Home aims to be the ultimate companion both on the couch and on the move.

Key Takeaways on Safely Managing Your Pokemon Collections

To wrap up, here are the core tips to remember for protecting your Pokemon:

  • Pokemon Bank goes 100% free on March 28, 2023
  • Migrate collections to Switch via Pokemon Home before Bank closure
  • Don‘t overwrite game saves or delete games after transferring
  • Routinely verify Pokemon arrived safely after transfers
  • Withdraw all Pokemon by discontinuation of services

With thousands of beloved Pokemon in the trust of fans worldwide, app developers have a responsibility to make transitions smooth. By planning ahead and taking precautions, you can securely shepherd your Pokemon into the next era of Nintendo console gaming and beyond. Wherever the journey leads, your Pokemon will be there by your side.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.