Two weeks ago, Burnt Orange Report endorsed Bank Transfer Day, and advocated for our readers to move your money from a corporate bank with greedy practices to a local credit union, preferably of the not-for-profit variety. We're pleased to report that Texans so far are doing just that, and we want to encourage all of you who haven't yet made the switch (or taken the first step of opening an account at a credit union) to do it.
Early numbers indicate that over 650,000 Americans joined credit unions since September 29, the day Bank of America announced a now-cancelled plan to charge debit customers a $5 monthly fee for the privilege of using their accounts. The American Independent reports that over 47,000 Texans have joined credit unions in the past month alone. Everything is bigger in Texas, including the amount of money Texans are shifting to credit unions and away from bad-guy banks.
In Texas, credit unions gained $326 million in new deposits from 47,000 new members during the month leading up to the so-called Bank Transfer Day. The Saturday event was orchestrated by an online campaign urging consumers to move their money from banks to the generally smaller credit unions.
That's what I'd call a great start to Texans investing their money with the good guys. If you haven't made the switch or opened an account with a credit union that fits your needs, read our Bank Transfer posts here for a how-to. Our BOR staff is divided between being happy members of A+ FCU, Velocity CU, and University FCU. Looking to switch? Ask around -- I am sure if you pose the question on your Facebook or Twitter account, you'll get plenty of feedback and suggestions about local credit unions. It's great to see people doing research about their banking options and making an educated switch. The trade publication Credit Union Times reported that page views on the two largest credit union websites, CUNA and NAFCU, hit record highs during the lead-up to November 5th's official Bank Transfer Day.
Of course, the bad-guy banks aren't going down quietly, and for the time being, many employees are pushing back against customers who choose to close their accounts, which is really not cool. DailyKos has a round-up of stories about banks trying to stop customers from closing their accounts. Some of it frankly sounds like borderline emotional abuse. But what do you expect from a financial system built on treating its customers like they're the human batteries in The Matrix?
Overall, the Move Your Money effort has been one of the most broadly embraced actions to grow alongside the Occupy Wall Street movement. Switching to a credit union is a real and tangible way that the 99% can not only express dissatisfaction with our unfair economic system, but actively do something to help defund it, while supporting more equitable financial organizations to boot. Asking friends over dinner when everyone whips out their credit cards to split the bill where they bank has suddenly become less of a social taboo -- I can't remember the last time that in-depth conversations about personal finance occurred so frequently. This is an important opportunity to engage people in discussions about what your bank choice means in this era of mass conglomeration and rampant anti-consumer efforts by the biggest banks.
So if you haven't moved your money yet, feel free to ask more questions about credit unions. If you're hesitant to close your current account, start simply by opening an account at a credit union to familiarize yourself with their services. Looking to make a major purchase such as a car or home? Talk to credit unions to see if they can offer you a better rate. Are you a campaign for office or do you have an officeholder account? Consider opening or switching to a credit union. It's a great way to make your money work for us and our shared values, rather than against us.
Today, November 5, is Bank Transfer Day, a grassroots, citizen-organized effort to move your banking from a corporate, for-profit bank to a smaller, local, preferably non-profit credit union.
Burnt Orange Report is wholeheartedly supporting this effort, as well as our friends at the PCCC who are organizing Banxodus, a tremendous online resource that helps you find a good bank and make the switch. You can also help their crowd-sourcing project to identify additional banks with good practices in your area.
You can read our much longer post about Bank Transfer Day here, which talks about why it's so important to move your money, and also provides tips about how to make the switch. Burnt Orange Report now banks with Velocity Credit Union, and many of our staff use UFCU, A+, and other local federal credit unions.
One common concern I hear a lot is from people worried that they won't be able to find an ATM or branch when they're out of town. That's valid, but it's probably not a justification for staying with Bank of America, who received billions in bailouts and yet spends millions on anti-consumer lobbying efforts and still pays absurd bonuses to executives while trying to charge its customers $5 just to use their own debit cards.
The CU Service Center makes it easy to find a shared branch wherever you are. When I'm visiting my parents in New Jersey, I go to a credit union just two miles from their house. There's even a FindBranch iPhone app to help you locate your nearest shared branch. Easy!
Two of our local credit unions in Austin are also getting into the spirit. Velocity Credit Union is running this ad on TV:
University Federal Credit Union has put together a great web resource, the Movement page, with great resources and a downloadable worksheet to get you started on moving your money.
It's great to see them getting into the spirit -- not for corporate profits, but to spread the word about the benefits of joining a local, not-for-profit credit union. Put your money to work for you, rather than funding the vast web of multinational corporate banks that have caused so much pain and suffering for all of us.
We strongly encourage you to find a bank that suits your needs, be it free checking, savings certificates, a car loan, or just friendly, helpful customer service from people that genuinely want to solve your problem.
If you do switch banks today, however, just a tip -- while I love V for Vendetta as much as the next girl, it's probably better to leave the Guy Fawkes mask off when you're going into a bank.
Got stories about your Bad-Guy bank and why you left? Questions about using a credit union? Post 'em in the comments!
The Occupy Wall Street movement nationwide has made visible the long-simmering frustration many of us have felt watching the rising income inequality in America. That income inequality stems directly from many of the policies put in place by our largest financial institutions, who continue to nickel and dime many of us for the "privilege" of managing our money with them.
That's why Burnt Orange Report is proud to announce today that we're officially endorsing this Saturday's Bank Transfer Day and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee's Banxodus effort, and calling on all of our readers to switch from a corporate bank to a credit union.
To kick things off, Burnt Orange Report has moved our account from Chase to Velocity Credit Union here in Austin. We'll get a better interest rate, no monthly fee, and the knowledge that we are voting with our wallet for a more equitable economy -- all in all, it's a no-brainer. Join us. Below we've got information about why you should join, and a great set of tools to help you make the switch.
Why you should join a credit union
Not-for-profit credit unions are owned by their members. These banks aren't under pressure by Wall Street investors to maximize quarterly returns. Instead, profits go back to the members in the form of higher interest on savings and lower interest on loans, mortgages, and credit card balances.
The same is not true in the world of for-profit corporate banking. Just look at the chart on the left showing the tremendous consolidation of the consumer banking industry in the last 20 years. These big banks think they can get away with charging you exorbitant interest or excessive fees because you don't have a choice. Well, you do have a choice, and that choice is a credit union that meets your needs.
A wide range of financial planners and media outlets agree: credit unions are better for your money. Here's why:
1. Fewer fees, more savings. The Credit Union National Association estimates that consumers save more than $6 billion a year in better rates and lower fees by using credit unions. That's your money -- who should make a profit off of it, you or your bank? -- ABC News
2. Credit cards with lower interest rates. Federal law prohibits federal credit unions from charging interest rates above 18%. Credit union customers pay, on average, 20% less in credit card interest. -- Forbes
3. Better customer service. 70% of credit union members feel that the institution put the customer's interests ahead of the institution itself. The highest big bank, Wells Fargo, came in at a 40% positive rating. --Forbes
4. No penalties for using or not using your money. Corporate banks routinely charge you to open a checking account, charge you if your account is dormant, charge you if your balance drops below a certain level. It's crazy! Credit unions simply do not engage in these kinds of practices -- practices that are focused on driving up quarterly profits, regardless of customer satisfaction. -- MSN Money
5. Your money stays in your community. Credit unions primarily employ people locally, and give back generously as well. Local credit unions are also more likely to give loans to local businesses, especially women- and minority-owned businesses. Since the recession began, credit unions have vastly expanded their business loan operations, which helps keep funds working in the local community. -- Businessweek
Already Bank of America has already backed down on the $5 user fee they tried to charge all customers to use their own debit cards. But let's not be naive and assume big, corporate banks will changing their ways -- move your money to an institution that cares more about you than corporate institutional investors.
Over the next few weeks, we will be encouraging local progressive and Democratic organizations and campaigns to switch from corporate banks to not-for-profit credit unions. It's time to make sure that progressive money is banking with institutions that care more about the members than how they can profit from them.
1. Take the pledge. Commit to moving your money, if not by November 5 than by the end of this year. Click here and sign on to the growing "Move Your Money!" movement.
2. Find a new bank. It's easy. The Banxodus page put together by PCCC makes it simple -- just enter your zip code and search. You'll want to do some research: ask about interest rates for savings and checking; look for a no-balance-transfer fee to move your funds; find out what ATM fees are at non-member ATM's, and if the credit union participates in local and national credit union networks that you can use away from home.
3. Move your money. For some folks, it might be easier to start by opening an account with a credit union, beginning to deposit money there and use the checking and online systems, and get comfortable with it. That's fine. Over time, you'll realize like so many other Americans that the credit union is more responsive, provides better customer service, and is much more eager to help you, a fellow citizen, find the banking solutions that work for you.
Just a note of warning: those big corporate banks might have a hard time letting you go. It might take a few phone calls and possibly even a few visits in person to get your money -- your own money! -- out of their clutches. But it's worth it, in the end, to know that your money is working in your community, rather than funding a massive global financial industry that helped get us into the mess we're in.
Join us. Move your money to a credit union. Tell us why you're moving your money, or your former big bank horror stories before you switched. And more importantly, spread the word. Share this post on Facebook, email it to friends. Together, we can each do our part to help support a banking system that's a lot more fair to all of us.