Why I Moved (Some of) My Money to a Community Bank

One of the infuriating things about the collapse of Big Shitpile is that there hasn’t seemed to be much you or I can do about it (and that wanker Bernanke is useless). Until now. Move Your Money has developed a nice online tool to find local banks and credit unions.
Recently, after using their tool, I moved much of my money to a local bank, Wainwright Bank. When I told them that I wanted to open a savings account, they started to tell me about ten dollar minimum deposits, as part of Wainwright’s mission is to serve who often don’t have access to banking services. Maybe it just was the amount I deposited, which was, well, more than ten dollars, but I received a very nice personal letter from the person who opened the account for me:

Dear [Mike the Mad Biologist]
It was a pleasure to help you today. I know you have many other options for your financial needs so I want to thank you again for choosing Wainwright Bank.
Unlike nearly any other bank, Wainwright has over two decades of proven commitment to supporting social justice issues including the financing of projects such as affordable housing, food banks, homeless shelters, HIV/AIDS services, environmental protection, breast cancer research, inner-city schools and more.
Wainwright has provided over $700 million in these types of loans, and currently over 50% of our commercial loan portfolio is dedicated to them. Your deposits help finance these loans.
The bank has received much recognition for its commitment including being named one of the country’s Top 10 Best “Green” Banking Firms by the Social Investment Forum and one of the Top 20 Sustainable Stocks worldwide by SustainableBusiness.com
In her multi-million selling book, Megatrends 2010, Patricia Aburdene states, “Wainwright’s DNA is so deeply encoded with the commitment to social justice, you almost forget it’s a bank.”

Even if your local bank or credit union doesn’t have this sort of mission, you should still consider moving your money to a credit union or community bank. While the revenge factor is nice (why give those big bankster assholes your money), there are legitimate benefits to do this. First, the banks listed at Move Your Money are not zombie banks (otherwise, they wouldn’t be listed): they’ll actually be lending your money, which helps everyone. Second, these banks tend to lend money locally, so your deposits are helping local businesses and homeowners–which also helps you directly. Given leverage requirements, in many places, particularly after the collapse of Big Shitpile, moving $20,000 into a local bank in many places means you just financed someone’s home or a small business.
Mind you, I’m not a ‘purist’ about this. I’ve kept a checking account at Major Bank. The national ATM access is useful, and I have payroll deposit set up there. But there’s no reason why I should keep much of my money there–your local bank is insured by FDIC every bit as much as the major banks.
You should really think about moving your money.
Update: Small banks have better fees too (thanks to Min and Comrade PhysioProf).

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11 Responses to Why I Moved (Some of) My Money to a Community Bank

  1. Marco_Tolo says:

    I moved the majority of my banking to a local credit union last summer – and finally closed my accounts with Big National Bank this past week. In addition to the philosophical advantages, I’ve found that service is vastly improved (the online system at my old bank was a throwback to 1998), the rates of return are much better, and overall response times to my occasional questions are minutes, not days. My “new” credit union even automatically reimburses up to $20 worth of ATM each month if I use out-of-network cash machines.
    I used credit unions for years – and am having trouble recalling why I switched a half-dozen years ago to Big Bank. Lesson learned.

  2. Chris Tucker says:

    I love Wainwright and their no fee basic checking account.
    I moved to them 5 or so years ago after reviewing my statement from Citzen’s bank CAREFULLY and seeing that they were charging me for Point of Sale purchases at Boomerangs and other places. Right. Screw YOU, Citizen’s, I am outta here!
    That Wainwright also pushes all my socially responsible action buttons was a MAJOR influence on my moving there.

  3. jake says:

    My state employee’s credit union is teh awesome. I’m able to save a lot more money with it than with BoA or Wachovia.

  4. Min says:

    There is another good reason to move your money. The big banks have higher fees.
    (I saw some charts recently online. Sorry, I don’t have the URL. But the stats should be findable. :))

  5. Moopheus says:

    I hope that works out for you. We’re going to be doing the same. I think our choices will come down to either Cambridge Savings or Cambridge Trust, both of which I have used in the past. Wainwright did take some TARP money, though it appears that they have paid it back.

  6. (I saw some charts recently online. Sorry, I don’t have the URL. But the stats should be findable.

    Here’s the graph:

  7. Art says:

    I’m a big fan of community banks, but especially credit unions. I like the not-for-profit ethic and the community and small loan focus. And yes, $20K for them is still a lot of money. I was impressed by the fact that the president of my credit union has open office hours and keeps normal working hours in their office.
    Even the ATM thing may not be an issue. I don’t use them but friends that do say that our credit union has some sort of arrangement so you can access your account from a much wider area without being charged a lot. Something to ask about.

  8. Troublesome Frog says:

    I’ve found that even if you have to eat an occasional ATM fee, you still save money at a small credit union. There’s a certain peace of mind you enjoy when you don’t have to count your fingers every time you shake hands with your banker.

  9. JoeBuddha says:

    In Washington (state), most if not all CU’s have an agreement for no fees at each other’s ATM’s. I got royally screwed when my community bank was taken over by a national one, so I’ve been at CU’s for the last 15 years or so. Never regretted it once.

  10. Credit unions are all about the community and giving back to their member owners. They are owned by the people and for the people… not just an elite few shareholders.
    There is a great video contest in the voting stages right now to complement the Move Your Money campaign and show the power of credit unions and people helping people: http://www.youngfreehq.com/blog/music-video-contest-entry-8-james-robert-lay.html

  11. Joshua says:

    Not only lower fees, but typically higher rates for savings accounts, too. I’d have switched a while ago, except that I’m planning to move out of state in a few months. I might try to transfer a big chunk of my money to a local bank/credit union in my destination area before the move, though. My current account is with BoA, which as far as I can tell is basically the worst of the worst for screwing people over.

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