By Zoe Mendelson, 21, reporting from New York City on an easy way to bank better and support your community
Bank Transfer Day is coming up—this Saturday, November 5. Now you may not think of your personal savings, or lack thereof, as having a big impact on the global financial system. But they do.
Here's the idea behind it: Big, corporate-level banks profit with your every transaction, moreso as they keep increasing fees that target those with less than $20,000 in their accounts. (Perhaps you know someone who fits this description?) Small, local-level credit unions are not-for-profit and spread the wealth close to home, in your neighborhood.
BTD—founded by 27-year-old Los Angeles art gallery owner Kristen Christian, who was just fed up with the fees and lack of control of her own money—is a call for consumers to take their savings out of the big banks and put it into credit unions.
If everyone who's already signed up to participate on Saturday does so, and remains credit union members for a year, they will have saved a combined $5 million as consumers.
Because big banks exist to profit, they tend to put their money—your money—where it is most likely to earn them more money. These days that often means investing in mountaintop coal removal, fracking, the Keystone XL pipeline, companies that make weapons sold to the government to be used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, private prisons, and multinational agribusiness corporations.
Big banks also see it as too risky to give loans to people who don't earn enough money or have poor credit by their terms, making it hard for anyone working class to get a start, at buying a first home or paying for their children's education or launching a small business.
It's worth considering if these are causes or practices you would choose to back. I won't even get into how big banks also caused the recession here… That's a talk for another day. But same bottom line: When all that matters is profit, decisions made do not usually benefit the general public.
Credit unions, on the other hand, are owned and run by the people who keep money in them. They usually focus on a specific geographic area and concentrate on helping build up that local economy. They work with clients to re-build their credit and offer low-interest loans. By providing capital, they support small businesses and create sustainable local communities.
Plus, with a credit union, you still earn interest and have a debit card the same way you do with the big institutions. And your money is just as safe; it's federally insured.
If any of this information has moved you to move your money this Saturday, look for the credit union closest to you, open an account, and step outside the mo' money, mo' problems cycle created by the banking giants in this country.