Almost two weeks ago, I pushed out emails to family, friends and local listservs, simply saying:
As a protest to the 2008 bailouts received by the Big Banks, the Move Your Money project was created. It encourages individuals and institutions to divest from the nation's largest Wall Street banks and move to local financial institutions, basically taking power into their own hands by voting with their dollars and no longer contributing to a financial system that has led our country astray.
A more current national campaign, Bank Transfer Day, has been initiated nationwide, to get us, the 99%, to move our funds out of the Big Banks on or before Nov. 5, 2011.
If you have accounts with any of these banks (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase), we suggest you go to Move Your Money's website to Find a Bank or Credit Union convenient to you, open new accounts, and close accounts with the Big Banks. And please, send us your stories! Let our combined actions speak for all of us!
Though I'd begun by targeting the Big Four, overwhelming responses flooded my Inbox and Facebook page. Several people reprimanded me for recommending PNC Bank, a key investor in mountain top removal for coal mining, a practice PNC pledged to stop last fall; another sent me a link to Green America which stated that TDBank (Toronto-Dominion Bank) is one of several Canadian banks bankrolling oil, gas, and forest-clearcutting operations that are harming Canada’s Boreal Forest. Many shared their account changes: one opened an account with Trumark Credit Union, another closed a Citibank credit card and switched to a card offered by her credit union. And one friend wrote: "Just want you to know that this is the kind of thing we need to see coming out of all these efforts. More folks need to understand the connection between their own money and local economy. I rarely see something really worthwhile and notable these days. This banking thing is definitely something that can shake the rafters!"
The most vocal was a family with a disabled adult son, who shared their Citizens Bank saga—that he needs to make five withdrawals per month to not pay the $20 monthly fee. They could, of course, keep more funds in his account, but that'd make him ineligible for Social Security Disability Insurance! And when the mom & son go into the bank, they're being teased for coming in so often, while all the time being charged this same monthly fee. At one visit, they were told that the withdrawals have to be at an ATM, not a teller. Another time, the advice was that it was OK to come into the bank and work with a teller!
Using the Find a Bank/Credit Union link from the Move Your Money website, the family is working to switch banks, and happily discovering institutions close by where there are no additional fees for disabled people! Now they are wondering how much Citizens Bank will charge them when they go to close accounts! Most banks have been pushing electronic statements. Citizens, it seems, charges $3 per month for paper statements—another discrimination against those that can't afford a computer, or elect not to use one.
With most of my asset accounts at local Valley Green Bank, I thought I was all set until I looked in my wallet and found the Working Assets Visa card I've proudly carried since 1986, giving originally a nickel, and more recently a dime of each transaction to progressive non-profits! I guess I knew that this was an affinity card (much like the frequent flyer cards from airlines) through Bank of America. A friend from Media shared Green America's 6 Ways to Break Up With Your Bank along with a good list of Responsible Credit Cards. We've since applied for (and received) a Visa card from PFCU and plan on cutting up the Working Assets Visa AKA Bank of America card by Nov. 5.
Thanks, PFCU, for making it easy to make the switch!
Just three days into my pitch, I had to send revised emails with additional links and a reminder to keep at moving our money. The local banks are noticing quite an uptick; see here.
On Tuesday, I found a great way to connect a message of the Transition Town movement (to relocalize our economy) with the Occupy movement and spent the morning with an Occupier at City Hall plaza, pitching "What better way to Bring our Money Home, available for re-investment right here, in Our Communities, to Serve Our Needs? Move Your Money!" The Occupy Philly folk had already got coverage by Philadelphia Weekly (see here, and here) and had two credit unions standing by to open new accounts.
By now, many groups are behind this effort: MoveOn, Reclaim the Dream, Neighborhood Networks, Occupy Philly's Direct Action Group, Earth Quaker Action Team. Even the Philadelphia Federal Credit Union plastered it's front page with info about Bank Transfer Day. There's even a Move Your Money website for our region. If you switch to PFCU, you can support Move Your Money Philly (& Occupy Philly). They get $25 if you tell them you were refererred by account #776959.
Also, this Saturday, on Bank Transfer Day, Occupy Philly is inviting all of us to City Hall at 2 p.m. to share testimonies and relish in a community of people saying no to the greed of the big banks!
On the good news, we learned of a new credit union opening in early 2012—the Green Energy Federal Credit Union, investing primarily in energy efficiency and clean renewable energy in our region. Yes!!
Meenal | Transition Philadelphia | relocalizing solutions for our region