So, you’ve been wanting to end your relationship with your mega-bank, but you can’t break up just yet. While you work toward making a clean break, we’ve got some suggestions for how you can “cheat” on your mega-bank: ways you can move money into banking products from community development financial institutions (CDFIs), even if you’re maintaining a primary bank account elsewhere.
1. Savings accounts — No matter where you keep your primary checking account, you can open up a savings account with a community development bank or credit union anywhere in the country. Many CDFIs offer online banking services, so consider shopping around for a bank or credit union that matches your values best.
2. IRAs, Roth IRAs, Education Savings Accounts, and money-market accounts — For your education, retirement, and other specialized long-term savings needs, these common types of savings accounts can be found at many, but not all, community development banks and credit unions. Be sure to roll over IRAs from your mega-bank to your new community development bank or credit union without taking money out to avoid any tax liabilities. Be aware that money market savings accounts often require a relatively high minimum balance, and offer relatively high rates of return, based on current interest rates.
3. Credit cards — One of the easiest ways to cheat on your bank is to cut up your corporate mega-bank credit cards, and start using a card affiliated with a CDFI. Green America offers a Visa card through One PacificCoast Bank (888/326-2265). You can find others at GreenAmerica.org/go/creditcards.
4. Certificates of deposit — Purchasing CDs through CDFIs can be a good way to save and invest your money, if the terms (minimum amount and duration until maturity) meet your needs. Some CDFIs offer CDs that are targeted to specific issue areas, such as New Resource Bank’s solar CD
(415/ 995-8100), which helps businesses and individuals go solar, and the Self-Help Credit Union “Women and Children” CD (800-476-7428), which helps finance women-owned businesses and organizations.
5. Refinance your mortgage — Depending on interest rates, this may or may not make sense for your financial situation. Your local CDFI can go over this possibility with you and work out a plan to make the switch, if it would be advantageous for you.
6. Assist others who want to move their money — It’s not just individuals who can move their money into community development. If you have influence over how your workplace, faith community, or other organization does its banking, you can encourage these groups to break up with their mega-banks as well. Green America’s allies at US SIF and the Responsible Endowment
Coalition offer resources for faith communities and universities, respectively.
7. Find a new financial planner — Socially responsible financial planners can help you find even more ways to move your money, from mutual funds to venture capital and beyond. If your current financial planner isn’t up to speed on how your banking and investing can do good in the world, find a new one in Green America’s National Green Pages™ The more steps you take toward “the big break-up” ahead of time, the easier it will be to finally pull the plug on your mega-bank relationship.
This article first appeared in the Green American in our Jan/Feb “Break Up With Your Mega-Bank” issue. For more tips and resources greening your life, subscribe to the Green American. We’re finishing up our Mar/Apr issue about GMOs right now. >>