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Move Your Money Day a Success; Over $50 Million Withdrawn From Big Banks

Around the country, in groups and individually, Americans voted with their dollars this week to move away from the banks that caused the economic crisis.

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He continued, “I understand it wasn't so painless for others. There were reports coming out of LA that a downtown Bank of America was charging a $10 account closing fee,” as well as last month's arrests of protesters attempting to remove their money from banks. “But incidents like that, while obnoxious, actually give me hope. They show that, whatever the short-term impact of Bank Transfer Day, the symbolic act of refusing to subsidize foreclosures and financial malpractice is powerful enough to make major banks uneasy.”

Measuring the Impact

As Jeff Gelles at the Philadelphia Inquirer noted, it'll be hard to measure the real financial impact of Saturday's bank transfers until the banks report their fourth-quarter statements.

But Tracy Van Slyke, co-director of the  New Bottom Line, told me that in the last week since launching the group's “move our money” tools, individuals, congregations, union members and even business owners have moved $50 million out of the big banks. In San Jose, Calif., businessman, philanthropist and San Jose PACT-PICO supporter Mike Fox, Sr. moved $8-10 million of his own money out of Bank of America, saying “It is going to take wealthy people divesting to send BofA the message that they need to stop foreclosing on our families and stop making money off the backs of our homeowners. It’s going to take all of us to send that message.”

New Bottom Line's goal is much bigger: $1 billion, as part of a movement that goes well beyond Saturday's action.

Gelles noted, “The Credit Union National Association said Thursday that since Bank of America's debit fee was announced, credit unions had added 650,000 members -- vs. 80,000 in an ordinary month -- and $4.5 billion in deposits.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that more than three-quarters of credit unions offer no-strings-attached free checking, but only 45 percent of banks offer the service. Credit union deposits, just like bank deposits, are insured by the FDIC. “Overall, U.S. credit unions have more than 91 million members, or nearly one in three Americans,” reporter Suzanne Kapner noted.

Credit Union National Association president/CEO Bill Cheney said in a statement, "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.”

While it can't count how many of the promises to move away from the big banks were actually acted upon, there were 81,452 pledges at Rebuild the Dream's Move Your Money site, including 33,346 from Bank of America customers and 17,974 from Chase customers. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee also collected pledges with its Banxodus tool, and helped those who signed up find a credit union or small bank in their neighborhoods.

"The reason why it's caught fire across the country is because of the change in conversation that Occupy Wall Street has inspired," PCCC spokesman Neil Sroka told the Inquirer. "We're actually talking about things like income inequality...and the degree that big banks have control."

Van Slyke said, “It's an awesome start in one week!”

Keeping the Pressure On

The New Bottom Line is just getting started with its efforts to move money away from the big banks, moving from individual efforts to pushing for group actions and even political actions.

One of the group's strategies, Van Slyke told me, “is getting community groups, unions, congregations, any kind of organized group to move their money out of big banks. We have a whole toolkit at NewBottomLine.com, we're also working with groups who are already part of the NBL network.”

 
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