Democracy is inherently decentralized – big banks have anti-competitive pricing and practices, and big banking has transferred too much wealth from the poor to the already rich. It’s time to not bank with the big guys. If you’re in danger of foreclosure, go see our foreclosure tips here. We kicked this campaign off with our Break Up with Your Bank campaign

Breaking up with your big bank is dirt simple. Here are a few tips to make it even easier.

A. Break up with your bank

The best thing you can do is to go into a branch location of the big bank you bank with and tell them you want to close the account. Many banks also let you cancel on the internet. They will send you a check for your balance or you can withdraw funds. Simple.

If you’re not prepared to completely close your big bank account right now, you can still have a huge impact just by moving as much money as you can out of the big bank and into a smaller bank or credit union. Just write a cheque from your big-bank account and deposit it in a small, local bank to set up a new account. Slowly move more of you money from the big bank to the smaller bank. I bet you’ll end up liking the small bank better and eventually closing the big-bank account altogether.

* Click here find a local credit union

* Use the Move Your Money tool to find a local community bank

Tip: Bring old banking statements, bills, or the names, addresses and account numbers for billpay, your employer, any auto pay and certificates of deposits, debit cards. You can also ask for a list of all direct debits or auto bill pay from your old bank. For due diligence, you can send this letter to your old big bank to confirm closing.

B. Cut Up Your Big Bank Credit Cards

Think credit cards are okay as long as you pay off your balance? Bank of America will soon be introducing the dubious “fee for good behavior” and other new sneaky fees. Credit cards from credit unions charge lower interest fees than big banks. Each year, we each spend $427 more in intercharge fees, passed along as higher prices, to use big-bank plastic. They charge you outrageously more for extra air miles and cash back bonuses. Debit cards can be painful as banks try to cash in on overdraft and other hidden fees — using cash happens to help you become a good penny saver. And, you won’t hurt your credit score.

Here’s how to cancel your credit card:

  1. Find the contact info on the back of the card. Write it down, keep it around.
  2. Call your credit card company, don’t tell them you plan on cancelling, and ask how much you will owe on your balance in 15 days (balances constantly change due to interest).
  3. Send in a cheque for the amount you’ll owe in 15 days to pay your balance down to $0.
  4. Wait a week, then call your credit card company, confirm that the balance is $0, and tell them you are canceling. They will try to convince you to keep the card because it’s more profitable for them to retain customers than to recruit new ones. Stay firm. Tell them you want your credit report to reflect that the account was “closed at the consumer’s request.”
  5. Ask who you can send a cancellation request letter to. Make sure they mark down that the account was closed at the request of the customer. Send this letter to them (.pdf) and mail it.

…If you need a new, fairer, cheaper credit card, it’s tough, but here are some: AM Trust, American Pacific, Bendigo.

Tip: Start using cash instead. Use your online bill pay to buy stuff on the net, or paypal. Use cash, checks, or PIN-based debit cards, if you can stay on top of it. A good place to start is to take out cash before you need it. Take it out by the week or when you run out.

Need a Loan? Tip: Pay off all your debt and loan money from friends. Many people feel shy about borrowing money. But, why? Your friends most likely want to help you and don’t charge you $35 bucks for a $5 loan. Any IOU written down is legally binding. Entire communities of the Chinese low- to middle-income population borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars every year from each other. How else are all these Chinese restaurants financed? The Brazilian immigrant community is also doing the same and there is a rise in Brazilian-owned businesses. The Mennonites use a centralized system of community investment — people’s projects are funded by the community as an investment.

Consolidate debt and pay it off with a peer-to-peer system set up by The Lending Club.

Want to do More?

STAY ON IT! Join us in the coming months as we protest for real economic reform and put pressure on our local governments to break up with the big banks and become better stewards of the public’s money. Sign up on the site to keep fighting with us.

DIVEST YOUR INVESTMENTS FROM THE TARP BANKS: Divest from Citi, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, AIG BAnk of New York Mellon, PNC, GMAC, Bancorp, American Express. You can start by looking up their stock quote here — for example, this is Citi’s.*****

Invest with investment companies that work towards the greater good, like TIAA-CREF.

Other campaigns working on the same issues for the same economic reforms in the public’s interest:

The ADR Credit Union Challenge, The Real Wealth of Portland, Move Your Money, Break Up the Big Banks, Americans for Financial Reform, New Economy, My Community Bank by ICBA, Jobs with Justice, IAF’s 10% is Enough, Prosperity Agenda

With special support from: Break Up the Big Banks, Americans for Financial Reform,Prosperity Agenda. See all campaigns and groups and join us.