4 things Brooklyn women should know before moving money from a big bank

young woman putting money into wallet

I’ve seen, been tagged into and participated in several FB conversations about how and where Brooklyn women dissatisfied with megabanks financing the Dakota Access Pipeline can move their money. I was at the epicenter of the Move Your Money movement last time this topic was hot back in 2012 with the Occupy movement. I worked as a financial advisor at the time at a Community Development Credit Union and was privy to an outpouring of consumers dissatisfied with their megabanks who were interested in the cooperative banking credit unions offer. The FB event Bank Transfer Day went viral. Having been through one move your money movement, I wanted to share some tips and resources for Brooklyn women looking to make the jump as well as some pitfalls you can avoid by knowing what to expect from moving your money.

1. Find alternatives to big banks near you

Check out the Move Your Money Map I created for a pretty deep dive on Brooklyn banks and credit unions that provide a respite from big banks. I provided pin drops of banks and credit unions that don’t finance the pipeline and were also not major players in the ’08 economic crisis. Whether their products or services are up to par is something you can consult Yelp or Google reviews for. You can check out the list of 17 banks involved in the financing of the DAPL to see if your bank is implicated.

2. Be prepared to sacrifice on convenience and cost

Consider that so many still use big banks despite their moral failings because they deliver on convenience and cost. Making a switch to a regional bank or credit union may be an adjustment. Banking by your values may mean giving up some conveniences you are used to in the way of ATMs on every corner or a sleek, advanced websites, or even an App, to give a few examples. Big banks are able to deliver on technology and convenience precisely because they are well, big.

You may be surprised to find that big bank rates on everything from loan products to fees and services are sometimes lower than their regional counterparts and credit unions because they have a tiered system that profits off of the lowest credit score and income earners through higher interest rates and frequent fees to provide free or low cost products to those with higher incomes and credit scores. Giving up these perks is a sacrifice but one that supports a more ethical and equitable financial system. Also alternatives to banks may offer additional services that benefit consumers but are not profitable like credit counseling, tax prep or financial education.

3. Do your research

Before making the move, think about how you use your bank regularly. What services can you not live without? If it’s mobile check deposit or online bill pay, make sure the new institution can provide that. Credit unions may participate in ATM networks like the Coop or Allpoint networks that are not as clearly marked as big bank ATMs are. It may involve going to a McDonald’s or a bodega to access no fee withdrawals. Find out where the closest ATMs to your place of work and home are that you can access before making the switch. You will also want to consider what is most important to you ethically i.e. is it diversity within the leadership structure? How many women are in leadership roles that you can see on the institution’s website? How many people of color? I find the meaningful inclusion of women and POC in leadership roles can lead to more fitting products and policies for those same populations.

4. Moving your bank accounts is just one way to defund big banks

Consider moving your loan balances! The best thing you can do for a financial institution is move over loans, not checking and savings accounts. Financial institutions make money on loans, but bank accounts cost them money to service and pay interest on (unless, like some big banks they are feeing you to death). If you had to pick one, it’s actually more beneficial to a financial institution to move a mortgage (through refinancing), credit card (through balance transfer) or other loan, although you’d have to consider the impact on you as a consumer and if it makes sense to do so. However, starting a relationship with a regional bank or credit union can still have a long term impact, make you feel good about who you’re interacting with and position you to take a loan from them in the future. It also sends a message to big banks by standing up to unethical investments and could change the way they do business going forward.

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