How to break up with your bank and switch to a better one — in just an hour

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Unlike breaking up with a romantic partner, you can dump your bank without arguing over who's fault it was — or who gets the Bonavita coffee maker. But as with cutting ties with a soon-to-be-ex, switching banks can still be a messy and time-consuming process if you're not sure how to start.

Like that partner who sneaks around behind your back all while whispering sweet nothings in your ear, banks suck you in with signup bonuses, direct deposit and automatic bill pay, then stick you with annoying fees and rock-bottom interest rates. As with any relationship, you deserve a decent return on your money, so if your bank isn't delivering, it's time to bounce.

Before you tell your bank it is no longer your financial bae, consider what you plan to do after you lower the boom. Closing accounts without a game plan could leave your money tied up in financial purgatory, meaning you won’t have access to your hard-earned funds if you have nowhere to park them.

"The most efficient way to switch banks is to plan ahead and be organized," Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate said. "Have an adequate idea of the products you are looking to replace or duplicate at another financial institution before you begin."

To help you navigate the process, here’s a quick and efficient approach to breaking up with your bank as quickly (and cleanly) as possible.

1. Try to keep the relationship alive

Time required: 15 minutes

Before you end it, make a quick call to voice your concerns to a customer or member service representative, especially if you would rather keep your relationship at the bank or credit union. Be honest and specific about why you want to leave and ask the rep if the bank can do anything to remedy the situation. Sometimes it's a matter of asking how to get fees waived or inquiring about accounts better suited for you at your bank.

When connecting with your bank, don't go in with guns drawn, as that won’t help save your relationship. "Be calm, but direct about your dissatisfaction," Hamrick said. "The mistake many people make is thinking the best path is through hostility. Instead you want to empower the person on the other end of the conversation to help you."

Don't say this.
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If your financial institution has a physical location, consider having the conversation in person, and understand you may need to talk to someone at a higher level to achieve satisfaction, he added.

2. Identify a better bank or credit union

Time required: 15 minutes

If there's no way to save the relationship — or if your bank or credit union did something inexcusable, like failing to reverse a fee they promised to credit you for — it's time to nail down a new bank. Focus on the reasons you want to switch, because if low interest payments are what drove you away, for instance, you need to make sure the new one pays higher interest.

If you hate account maintenance fees, look for a bank or credit union that offers "no strings" free accounts without minimums. Never set foot in a bank? Then find one with a great mobile app and a good network of free ATMs or a generous ATM fee reimbursement policy.

Need more help? Spend a few minutes skimming Mic's guides to the best banks: whether you want a high-interest checking account that reimburses ATM fees or a more generous savings account — or both.

3. Snag your new bank or credit union’s switch kit

Time required: 10 minutes

Here's the part that makes switching quick and easy: the switch kit. Although it sounds fancy, a switch kit is just a time-saving checklist of paperwork you'll need to move your accounts from one financial institution to another.

Although most banks offer one, here’s a sample in case your chosen bank or credit union doesn't. The information you’ll need to move accounts can be gathered in just a few minutes, including:

• Your name, address and date of birth

• Official photo identification (such as a driver’s license, passport and possibly your Social Security card)

• Social Security number

• First deposit for your new account

4. Untangle yourself from current bank ties

Time required: 15 minutes

After you make that initial deposit into your new account, make sure you’ve untangled yourself from old bank ties such as direct deposit and bill pay. Cancel bill payments first and then switch direct deposit to your new account by telling your employer, Bankrate suggests.

Next, set up automatic bill pay at your new financial institution.

Don't forget to leave enough money in your old bank account to cover any outstanding debts, such as uncashed checks, because your old bank can still hold you accountable for any overdrafts.

5. Say goodbye

Time required: 5 minutes (a few weeks later)

Wait until you are confident all your outstanding transactions have cleared and then part ways with your old bank: It’s vital you close your account, rather than leaving it open (even if it's a free account) because many financial institutions charge a dormant account fee for account inactivity — so be sure you submit an account closure form.

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