Martin Macias, Jr. for Radio Arte
“Remember the Fifth of November” may only be known from the film “V For Vendetta” or as Guy Fawkes’ Day, but now its part of a global action that requires your steadfast courage and calls for bravery under pressure. Though its best you don’t wear a mask doing it!
Are you angry at the way your bank has been treating you even after being a great customer for so long? Perhaps you’re in foreclosure proceedings and can’t find a bank to work with you. Well you should take part in Bank Transfer Day which is November 5th worldwide. Organizers are calling on people to have moved their money by Nov 5th from “big banks” to community development banks or credit unions. Here in Chicago there are over 70 credit unions including the Northside Community Federal CU, the South Side Community Federal CU, and Access CU which covers greater Chicagoland and the Southwest side. Remember that if it just a community bank it can still be bought up by bigger banks.
The site FearlessRevolution reminds everyone that “since November 5 is a Saturday, you should definitely do it before November 5 since many big banks aren’t open on weekends.” The site also offers an in-depth guide to what to do after moving your money, including Step 2:
2. If the bank employee asks why you are closing your account, decide in advance the reason you’re going to provide. You can tell them you’re unhappy with big banks or that you’re a part of the 99%. Or you can decline to give them a reason. The important thing is to remain focused and accomplish your goal of closing your deposit accounts and walking out of the big bank branch with your money.
Bank Transfer Day is significant because it targets one of the many culprits of the financial crisis. Banks will feel the pinch of this collective action since they rely on y(our) deposit account balances to have the capital to make loans which in turn reap big profits. Why target the banks? These banks continue to give their executives bonuses even after receiving tax dollars in the TARP bailouts. AlterNet posted this article offering the “5 Reasons You Should Move Your Money from Bank of America.” Senator Durbin of Illinois even crafted legislation to limit how much money banks can collect from card fees.
The lobbying done by Banks, Wall Street firms and the Chamber of Commerce on behalf of corporations and special interest groups has led to destruction of strong legislation that protects consumers and the environment. And they show no signs of relinquishing their stranglehold on politics through campaign contributions as New York Times reports:
“Since this spring, Mr. Romney has raised $1.5 million from employees of firms like Morgan Stanley; Highbridge Capital Management, a hedge fund; and Blackstone, a private equity firm. Mr. Obama has raised just over $270,000 from firms that were among his leading sources of campaign cash in 2008. “
College students have organized “College Bank Transfer Day” and demanded that universities close their corporate bank accounts and move to community development banking and investing. Universities control about $350 billion in endowments and almost $100 billion in annual spending according to the Responsible Endowment Coalition.
This Huffington Post article tells the story of the Move Your Money Project which has over 41,000 “likes” on Facebook. The project calls for ending the too big to fail model of banking, fewer fees – more savings for customers, investing in main street, supporting local business and building the local economy. The campaign claims that since it launched in 2010 it has spurred over 10 million people into moving their money to community banks and/or credit unions, according to Moebs Services. Here in Illinois, Representative Jan Schakowski (D-Ill.) talked to MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan about why she moved her money from Bank of America to her local Devon Bank: “Individuals can do something about it. We don’t have to live with these abusers.”
You can watch the “MoveYourMoney” video below which puts the story into perspective by remixing an old cinema classic.
Whats the Alternative?
The alternative to banking with “Too Big to Fail” banks, such as Chase and Bank of America, is moving to a community bank or a credit union. Credit unions are non-profit and claim to exist in order “to help people, not to make a profit.” You can find a credit union near you wherever you are in the United States. Information is also available en espanol. Here are some basic facts about Credit Unions to get you started.
A credit union is a not-for-profit, democratic, member-owned cooperative which anyone can join. You become a member and co-owner of the credit union when you make a deposit.
- Provide the same products and services—including surcharge-free ATMs, online financial services, and free savings and checking accounts—as other financial institutions
- Return their profits to their credit union members by providing better services, better rates, lower fees and special discounts
- Follow conservative investment practices and lend responsibly
- You can move your IRA or CD from your bank to a credit union (be sure to check your bank’s policy to see what fees are tied to that action)
Credit Union deposits are not federally insured by the FDIC but rather are insured for up to $250,000 by the Natl Credit Union Administration. Suze Orman, financial educator, explains the similarities between NCUA and FDIC protection. “They’re virtually identical. NCUA protects the money you have in a credit union account up to $250,000, same as FDIC protects money in a bank account.”
“The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back”
It’s not just individuals who are moving their money; its city and county governments, and large organizations with big bank accounts. In San Jose, Father Samaniego announced that the East Side parish would be moving its $3 million account with Bank of America, where the church has done business for at least 20 years, to a community credit union. Some held posters that read “Keep Families In Their Homes” or “Stop Corporate Greed,” and several closed their own personal bank accounts.
Nationwide, groups such as the Public Banking Institute and the New Economy Working Group are working with State representatives to consider what it would mean to create a state-owned bank. The many benefits of a state-owned bank include access to credit and generation of revenue. Currently, North Dakota is the only state in the union to operate such an institution which it established in 1919 and is reaping the rewards for it. This would be refreshing news to communities fearing the cuts to social services in their respective state budgets. More info on the Illinois Budget crisis can be found here.
So now what?
Ok just to recap. Big banks were largely responsible for the economic crisis and continue to perpetuate the destructive practices that were motivated by greed. Credit Unions and Community Development banks have a stake in community and are tied to the local economy. Begin the steps of researching a credit union that you found near you. Call them up and tell them you want to transfer to them and they will guide you. Go back to your big bank and talk to a banker (optional) about how to transfer smoothly and if there are any fees or penalties. Transfer over and become an active member in building the new economy and telling others what you did.
While it is not tied to the Occupy Wall Street movement there is plenty of enthusiasm and support from people who see this as a great nationwide call to action – especially for people who can’t get arrested or don’t want, or want to participate in other ways besides what they find at their respective #occupy sites. If you do decide to take the step of moving your money please tell me about it by email me at: email@example.com. Remember to tell your old bank why you left!
Note: YesMagazine! offers a look at how smaller community banks can insulate themselves against the larger economic crisis while still being able to lend to customers.