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Nov 042011
 

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

If you’re an “average American” as the politicians like to call us, you may not be able to quit your job and camp in the street to show you’re simpatico with Occupy Wall Street.

The mask associated with Bank Transfer Day.

But those who are displeased with Wall Street, are taking personal steps to register their discontent. It appears that tomorrow, on Bank Transfer Day, thousands of regular folks are poised to move their money out of the behemoth banks that fueled the housing boom, brought the world to the economic brink and then turned to the U.S. taxpayers for relief.

The Credit Union National Association reports today that more than 650,000 consumers have signed up over the past four weeks, since Sept. 29, when Bank of America announced it would charge debit card fees.

“The results indicate that consumers are clearly making a smarter choice by moving to credit unions where, on average, they will save about $70 a year in fewer or no fees, lower rates on loans and higher return on savings,” said CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney.

A key difference between Big Banks and credit unions is that credit unions are not-for-profit enterprises, set up to serve their members.

The idea of punishing the Big Banks with withdrawals has been taking hold since the banking crisis of 2008 resulted in few changes on Wall Street, but with tomorrow designated as Bank Transfer Day, it has caught fire.

The Occupy movement, with its assemblages and forays into bank lobbies covered by media over the past month, obviously lit the match, though it is not leading the money withdrawal effort.

The money withdrawals concept also resonates in other quarters. It dovetails, for instance, with the environmental Slow Money movement, which advocates for investment in smaller, sustainable food operations to rescue the process from industrial monopolies.

Bank Transfer Day, specifically set for Nov. 5, appears to have been triggered by a gallery owner in California, Kristen Christian, who is fed up with Bank of America. But you could say she has about 40,000 co-sponsors for her plan, which is the number of likes this morning on the Bank Transfer Day Facebook page.

Move.org has stepped in to fan the flames, starting a pledge drive to Move Your Money. Its website recorded nearly 50,000 pledges to move bank accounts out of Bank of America, CitiGroup and Chase bank. If all those pledges made good, and the accounts averaged just $1,000 each, the money drained from those three banks would total a noticeable $50 million.

Two groups have been online since before Occupy pricked open the bubble of discontent in America, Move Your Money and Move Our Money. Both offer websites with advice to those who are looking for reputable credit unions and local banks to replace their Big Bank accounts.

  • Move Your Money, a non-profit with extensive advice on their website, can help you find a new local bank or credit union from a database that’s been screened. The database, developed by Hello Wallet, has reportedly culled those small banks and credit unions that may have engaged in some of the same risky or nefarious behavior that took place on Wall Street. They also have a page “Why You Should Move Your Money” designed to help who are considering a move. And naturally, you can follow them on Facebook. MoveYourMoney was the brainchild of filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, with help from economist Rob Johnson and media mogul Arianna Huffington.

Of course, people really don’t have to pounce on this Saturday, especially if they’re not quite ready to make the switch. Many, newly aware of this movement, will probably wait and study the matter. Experts advise that depositors should take more time to visit the local cooperatives, credit unions or small banks.

This idea of making Saturday, The Day, arose because it’s already commemorated as Guy Fawkes Day, after a 17th Century Britain who tried to burn down Parliament. Even though Fawkes had some very specific ideas of taking down power that wouldn’t be endorsed by today’s civil disobedience crowd, his day has come to symbolize the idea of defying those in power.

You can run with your money any day you choose.

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