Make a statement by moving your money
Most of us try to be conscious consumers, buying cruelty-free makeup or sweatshop-free clothing. Now, your bank account can be another tool for activism. Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citi Bank, and TD Bank are among the 17 big banks investing millions in the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is why water protectors and allies have called for supporters to close their accounts in protest. And there are other reasons to consider a money move as well, including the Wells Fargo fake accounts scandal, spikes in banking fees, and the damage done by "too big to fail" banks during the financial crisis that sparked the Occupy Wall Street movement. Moving your funds sends a message: you will not tolerate corporate greed or investment in projects wrought with environmental damage and severe human rights abuses. Taking your money out of big banks can seem daunting, but it's not as complicated as you think. Here are two alternatives and what to consider.
Credit unions are non-profit cooperatives designed to serve you (translation: unlike big banks, they don't answer to investors). When you support local banks, which lend money to small businesses and provide financial education programs, you're supporting your community. There are other perks: usually lower rates for loans and credit cards, higher interest rates on deposit accounts, either no or very low minimum balance requirements, and most now offer mobile deposits, too. Start by checking out the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (gabv.org), a searchable network of ethical banks around the world, and startup SWICH (swich.to), which lets you compare banks scored on their history of social responsibility. Local, black-owned banks are another option. The Blackout Coalition recently published an online map of black-owned banks and credit unions across the country (blackoutcoalition.org/black-u-s-banks).
It's important to do your research before transferring—not all credit unions or small banks provide equal services. Figure out what you need. Is it mobile check deposits or easy wire transfers? Do you run a business? Are you looking for lower interest rates or zero fees? Bank Local (banklocal.info), Bank Rate (bankrate.com), and the National Credit Union Administration (ncua.gov) let you compare the services of financial institutions near you. ATM fees are always a concern, but shared banking and ATM networks (like CO-OP) exist to alleviate them, and some credit unions and local banks offer ATM-fee reimbursement. Keep in mind, however, that these smaller institutions aren't recession-proof. But they are usually just as safe as big banks, as long as they are federally insured. You also can't instantly transfer all of your funds and automated payments. It can take up to a week, so be patient. With the right planning and info, you can use your money to make a political statement, and flex your activism all the way to the bank. —Eleonor Botoman
Illustration: Lan Truong
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