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October 6, 2011 / Todd Larsen

Break Up With Your Bank

As protestors continue to occupy Wall Street and consumers across the country are increasingly outraged by the abusive practices of mega-banks, Green America is urging Americans to “break up” with their mega-banks and, instead, shift their money to community investing institutions nationwide. The latest outrageous mega-bank gouging of consumers: the rise of the $5 monthly debit card fee at Bank of America and Citi charging up to $20 per month for not maintaining a minimum balance in checking accounts.

Unlike mega-banks, community investing institutions serve local communities, providing loans to support affordable housing, small businesses, and social services. They often lend money to people overlooked by big banks, such as women entrepreneurs, green businesses, and people providing vital services in their communities, such as child care. Also unlike mega-banks, community investing institutions do not engage in abusive and predatory banking practices, since they have a mission of building communities.

Over the past 10 years, the funds invested in community investing institutions grew from $5 billion in assets to nearly $40 billion. Much of this growth has been fueled by individual investors. To help individuals break up with their mega-bank, Green America provides resources, including a comprehensive guide for finding community investing options (available free as a download, and in print copies to individuals, or in bulk to community organizations), and stories of consumers who have broken up with their mega-banks and made the switch to community investing institutions.

When you break up with your mega-bank, make sure to email them or send them a letter, letting them know why.  The more customers they lose due to rip-offs, predatory practices, and their role in the economic collapse, the better.  And let us know you broke up with your bank!  Email us at tlarsen@greenamerica.org.

54 Comments

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  1. Jeanie Chantile / Oct 11 2011 4:29 pm

    is wells fargo included in that list?

    • jamfhall1 / Oct 27 2011 1:52 pm

      I don’t know but it should be. It’s right up there with Bank of America. I had a husband who would not leave BofA even when I pointed out to him that he was being charged $10.00 a month for the priviledge of having direct deposit! Notice I said “had a husband”. P.S. If you’re ever in Truckee, CA, there’s a former BofA that was converted to Bar of America.

  2. Todd Larsen / Oct 11 2011 4:35 pm

    Wells Fargo is a bank that we and many Americans are concerned about. The Department of Justice is investigating Wells Fargo for allegations of targeting minority borrowers for predatory lending practices: http://news.firedoglake.com/2011/07/27/doj-civil-rights-division-investigating-wells-fargo-for-mortgage-fraud/

    We encourage all Americans who are concerned about their banks’ lending practices to switch their deposits to community investing institutions.

  3. Justino / Oct 11 2011 8:54 pm

    Why not switch to a credit union? Their fees are lower and in many cases, no fees. I just looked up one credit union and they have no debit card fees, no monthly fees, and low minimum balances required. Hey, why doesn’t Green America start a credit union? What about the People’s Credit Union? Anyone want to join me?

    • Andrew / Oct 12 2011 10:15 am

      Agreed, Justino. You can find a credit union that supports local communities via the Federation of Community Development Credit Unions: http://www.cdcu.coop. You can also find credit unions that are part of Green America’s Green Business Network at http://www.greenpages.org.

      Our Community Investing Guide lists community development banks and credit unions beginning on page 20.

      Online version here: http://www.mygazines.com/issue/30304

      Or download or order copies to distribute here: http://www.greenamerica.org/socialinvesting/communityinvesting/orderguide.cfm

      Thanks, all!

    • Janice / Oct 15 2011 12:50 pm

      I belong to a credit union and in recent years, they have all consolidated so that u can use ANY credit union to do business, not just their ATMs. I bought a ten year old car at 5% interest! I require a $100 balance without penalty and free banking as long as I have direct deposit. I have been with them for years and all of their reps go above and beyond, remembering me whenever I come in.

  4. Barbara Laxon / Oct 11 2011 11:27 pm

    There is a credit union called Peoples Credit here in south Florida. Not sure who/what they are affiliated with. I went with Eastern Credit Union over twenty years ago. They were recently bought by Space Coast Credit Union. The changes were minimal.

  5. Tom / Oct 11 2011 11:55 pm

    I’ve been with my credit union in Alameda, CA for over 20 years. The money stays in my community to help out others and myself with loans. If we all left the mega banks they would not need to exist. Go local/small. Leave your megabank and disinvest with mutual funds that do not support your vision of the 21st century. Time to move on and leave the dinosaurs behind.

  6. Stefan Hajek / Oct 12 2011 12:27 am

    Fed up with the banking/financial system at large, finally got smart and walked-out on my corporate institutional bank today. Goodbye, US Bank, and hello to the neighborhood credit union. The absence of random fees and the rates of return only have me wondering why I didn’t do it sooner.

  7. Elizabeth O'Neill / Oct 12 2011 1:15 am

    I have been with a credit union my entire adult life. They are so great! A close friend’s baby niece died and we took up a collection to help with funeral expenses. I walked into a co-op credit union branch and the people were so helpful I ended up just opening a second account there. I make 0.5% on my regular savings account, who can say that? Everyone needs to switch, my ATM card even works outside the country at lower rates than big banks!

  8. janrose999 / Oct 12 2011 1:25 am

    We quit ALL of our mega bank credit cards in 2009. As soon as we realized that the banks were getting a HUGE bailout, after being part of the cause of the recession, we changed our relationship with big banks. We have credit cards with 2 local credit unions. We have had a chinking account with a credit union for over 40 years and we have been VERY happy with them.

  9. Elizabeth / Oct 12 2011 9:40 am

    I broke up with Bank of America about a year ago for being charged fees that were outrageous! I now use Netspend which is a prepaid card, I am only charged $5 a month for service, I have direct Deposit and no overage fees. It can be used as a checking and savings acount without any problems! I am super happy with the service!

  10. Lisa H / Oct 12 2011 12:10 pm

    I switched to a credit union 4 years ago, and I’ve never been happier! I still utilize an online savings account for a higher interest rate, but with a community bank in my area (https://www.upbnk.com/personal) where the money stays in the community and invests in low-income projects, etc.

    Keep up the work, Green American!

  11. Susan / Oct 12 2011 1:21 pm

    We got rid of our big bank credit card a couple of years ago after they tried to raised our interest rate even though we had always paid the balance in full and on time each month. After the bailouts and the way they treated their customers, we were ready to take our business elsewhere. We even recently opted to pay off our mortgage, which was also with a mega bank, early just out of principle… we did not want any more of our money funding those kind of business practices.

    Credit unions are the way to go. We have been very happy with the credit union that we joined through my husband’s employer. If we did not have access to our current employee based credit union, I would opt for a local or community credit union instead.

  12. Amy M / Oct 17 2011 10:37 pm

    I have been with a local credit union since 2005 after getting fed up with shady corporate banks and their practices. I love visiting my local branch where the people know me by name and are always so friendly and helpful. I don’t have to worry about hidden fees and overdraft charges. When I started my business in 2009, I opened my business account there as well. I always recommend credit unions over a corporate bank–it feels great to put my money into the local economy instead of getting “nickeled and dimed” by the big banks.

  13. David Newfeld / Oct 26 2011 5:59 pm

    I’m moving my accounts from Bank of America to InTouch Credit Union by end of year. Credit cards will move from Citicards to Green America’s OnePacific offering. I travel for business a lot, so the offset card is quite attractive…and long overdue.

  14. Caitlin B Flaherty / Nov 4 2011 7:24 pm

    I’ve been with Desert Schools Federal Credit Union for a few years however, even before all of this hit the fan, I became alerted to ever increasing interest rate (they are at or slightly below the rates of the corporate monsters) and they are beginning to install monthly fees (my 3 checking accounts have them).

    Is it just this Credit Union or are others following suite? I don’t like the direction they are going.

    • Todd Larsen / Nov 7 2011 2:13 pm

      There are many community development banks and credit unions that do not charge monthly fees. If you do not like the terms of any bank or credit union that you do business with, you should always feel free to shop around for better terms.

  15. Kenna / Nov 4 2011 11:39 pm

    I read through http://www.greenamerica.org/pdf/BUWYBtoolkit.pdf and did not see a very important item: Make sure your community bank is FDIC insured. If they are insured by another company, there is the possibility that they also could go bankrupt.

    • Todd Larsen / Nov 7 2011 2:10 pm

      Thanks. This is a really good point. it is important to make sure that any bank account is insured through the FDIC. For credit union accounts, insurance is provided through the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA: http://www.ncua.gov/Pages/default.aspx). NCUA also insures accounts up to $250,000 (similar to FDIC’s insurance for bank accounts). Check with a proposed credit union to make sure they have NCUA insurance for their account holders.

  16. Edward / Nov 7 2011 1:48 pm

    Overall, smooth process. More in-depth explanation already posted on my blog: http://worksoffaith.blogspot.com/2011/11/its-not-me-its-you.html

  17. Heather / Nov 7 2011 5:10 pm

    Moved to a small local bank years ago and have really enjoyed the benefits. Will never go back to a big bank.

  18. Thomas Rowan / Nov 7 2011 11:34 pm

    My wife, Catherine, and I withdrew all our money and closed our Chase Bank accounts about two months ago. We are now with a local bank and doing well.

  19. Anthony Vera / Nov 9 2011 9:45 am

    Transfering to a credit union is a meaningful act of protest. Going on a debt strike, however, would add tremendously toward the structural change required in the banking business.

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  21. Tim Holmes / Nov 15 2011 2:42 pm

    I first broke up with Bank of America when I heard about their criminal practice 10 years ago. It is hard to keep one’s money away from the big banks in today’s economy, but vigilance and an insistence on responsiveness to real people is crucial. I bank locally and do peer-to-peer lending, which pays much better anyway!

  22. Don / Nov 26 2011 5:40 pm

    B of A disgusted me way back in 1995 or ’96 enough to pull out. I already had savings in a credit union so decided to start doing my day-to-day banking with a credit union. I’ve never looked back. Until when I sought mortgage pre-qualification I followed my credit union’s reference to a partner firm of theirs. I was delighted when that firm told me it was likely my credit union would buy my mortgage and service it and just as much dismayed when the bank that actually took it over was Chase.

    So now I’ve got a challenge: I bought after 2008 sub-prime bubble burst but there’s still been some sliding of value. I also was laid off in 2010 and just now resuming a modest income after many months’ unemployment. I’m not in a happy condition to refinance now, but I’d certainly love to do so especially if I could get financing from the Permaculture Credit Union http://www.pcuonline.org/. It’ll take diligent prepayments until I can get enough loan to value and grow my income to where I can qualify. I don’t want to continue paying 5.25% to a billionaire bailout junkie corporation!

  23. Mark G Roberts / Apr 13 2012 2:11 pm

    It is time everyone moved away from businesses that have preditory practices against their own customers. This is outrageous and should not be allowed to stand. Large banks all have moved to preditory practices since their profits no longer really come from people, but from ecessive highly leveraged derrivatives trading.

    Many people are looking into alternative currencies and community credit systems to take back some modicum of control in their local economies. We have had three symposia in CT within the past few months. There are lots of alternatives.

  24. Michelle DeAnne / Oct 8 2012 2:10 pm

    I feel SO GREAT! I just dumped Chase bank. I have been plotting and planning for some time now, but it is done. I’ve switched to a credit union. Thanks for the “10 steps” instructions. :-)

    • Todd Larsen / Oct 8 2012 2:13 pm

      Congratulations!

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