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Money movers and Occupy Wall Street shakers rattle US banking world

Published time: November 05, 2011 20:22
Edited time: November 08, 2011 11:01

An Occupy protestor holds signs calling for citizens to close their bank accounts at big banks and move their money to credit unions in Hollywood, California November 2, 2011 (AFP Photo / Robyn Beck)

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In a national effort to make the so-called one per cent listen, hundreds of thousands of people have withdrawn money from leading banks in the United States. National Bank Transfer Day may be a grassroots movement – but it’s definitely making a move.

The idea behind the movement is simple: close accounts with the big guns and move your money to smaller players like credit unions. And it’s catching on as statistics show that since September 2011, over 650,000 people have made the swap, tired of hidden charges, poor customer service and overall corporate greed. Many say that despite the large number of people switching to credit unions, the impact of Move Your Money will not be felt by giants such as Chase, which holds nearly 30 million accounts nationwide.

America’s largest bank, as well as fellow fat cats Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Bank of America, is keeping the exact number of recent account closures close to their chest. But even the recent decision made by Bank of America to back out of a proposed $5debit-card fee shows that the movement is making an impact. And the reports made by credit unions and community banks certainly support that story.

Neil Sroka, press secretary for the Progressive Change Campaign, told RT that it is not at all a surprise that people are making a change because there are a lot of better options out there. “There are a lot of safer bets, all over the country”, Sroka said. “In the United States, we have credit unions – and they’re a great alternative, they’re connected to the community and they’re a great way for the folks to get out from under the foot of the big corporate banks that are responsible for ruining the economy.”

Sroka also explained just why community banking is more efficient in the long run. “Your money stays in the community – and you don’t have to worry about increased banking fees in order to pay some fat cat’s salary.”

­With bankers insisting they have “a right to make profits,” Kristen Christian, the person who is spearheading the entire Bank Transfer Day, says that is exactly why she started the movement.

“They have a right to make a profit and I have a right to decide if I am going to give them my money or not,” she said. “Unlike the OWS movement, the goal is not to hurt anyone or anything. The Bank Transfer movement is a shift of funds from the corporate level to the local level.” 

“I don’t believe that gathering a group of people to rally the bank is effective,” she added. “We are seeing positive improvements on the local level.”

Some US politicians have slammed the entire Occupy movement as socialist, but Kristen Christian believes that Transfer Day has nothing to do with socialism and calls it the “reawakening” of society.

“I definitely don’t think that Transfer Day is a shift to socialism in the political sense,” she said. “I think this is a consumer and community reawakening, people putting into practice three core values: living within your means, loving your neighbors, and investing in your local community.”