Sustainability: Oct. 29, 2011
Angry consumers and Occupy Wall Street protesters have found common ground in their disgust with mega-banks. They are mad and not going to take it anymore.
According to a Facebook page, the deadline for “Bank Transfer Day” is Nov. 5 to make a statement by moving your money from major banking institutions.
Already fed up with climbing bank fees, Bank of America’s recent announcement about monthly fees for debit cards was the last straw for many folks across the political spectrum.
Breaking up with your mega-bank makes good financial sense and clears your conscience. Wells Fargo and US Bank are the only mega-banks with a presence in the Grand Valley.
Green American suggests cutting up your mega-bank credit cards and mailing them to the bank with a note explaining why you are leaving. A socially responsible financial planner will respect your preferences and help you select financial institutions and investments that support your community.
Green America has an entire guide devoted to this topic. Go to http://www.mygazines.com/issue/30304 to learn how to break up with your mega-bank.
After ditching those dominating financial corporations, community banks and credit unions are excellent options. You can easily transfer checking and savings accounts as well as credit and debit cards.
Do some research before choosing a new home for your liberated dollars. One way of evaluating a bank is to research bank ownership. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) has a helpful website, http://www.fdic.gov, loaded with information but somewhat challenging to navigate.
Individual bank websites also can help because publicly traded institutions must post annual reports including ownership information.
Don’t let bank names fool you because several “local” banks are really owned by holding companies in other states or even foreign countries.
The more local the ownership, the more accountable the bank is to the community.
Banks with private ownership are more adaptable to community needs while publicly held banks have a primary responsibility to shareholders.
One example of a truly local bank is Alpine Bank in which employees are majority owners with a vested stake in the community.
Another option is credit unions, member-owned, not-for-profit cooperatives, that offering a full range of financial services including online banking.
Credit unions are famous for putting people before profit and, as an added bonus, often give higher interest rates on your money and charge lower rates on what you borrow.
Many credit unions even have “switch kits” on their websites to simplify the transition. Once you are a credit union member, you are a member for life regardless of where you might live.
Many credit unions are part of a shared branching network that allows members from other network credit unions to conduct basic transactions at no charge.
For decades, I have been a member of a credit union in California. Early last year, I left my mega-bank and made a painless transition to banking exclusively with our credit union.
Between shared branching and online banking, I am easily able to handle all of my finances with very little paper.
About a dozen local credit unions are sprinkled around our valley. More than half of them are community credit unions with open membership policies while a few others have some membership restrictions.
Those of you fed up with mega-banks can make an impact by breaking up with your bank during the week leading up to Bank Transfer Day.
You’ll sleep more soundly knowing your money is in a better place.