Meet The Nation: Un-occupying the banks

The banking crisis of 2008 left a sour taste in many Americans’ mouths. Massive nationwide banks committed numerous financial atrocities and got away with little or no repercussions.

Citibank, for instance, sold mortgage assets they knew to be toxic, and then bet that they would fall through.

They received $45 billion in government bailouts. This is but one example of a variety of underhanded dealings committed by national banks.

Finally, people have decided to do something about it. A few weeks ago, a small movement to withdraw funds from national banks and deposit them in small credit unions or local banks began as an event on Facebook.

Today, over 57 thousand people have pledged to their support to the movement, which has received endorsements from the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Internet vigilante organization known as Anonymous.

Apart from being an ideological statement, this is also becoming increasingly practical.

Chase, Bank of America, and many others have begun instituting a flat monthly fee for the use of a debit card while at the same time offering cash rewards for using a credit card, encouraging people to spend beyond their limits so that the bank may collect on the interest they will inevitably accrue.

I myself bank with Olympia Federal Savings, a local bank, and I encourage others to join this movement. Olympia Federal Savings charges no hidden fees and have truly excellent customer service. They also invest in the community by granting loans.

Finding a credit union can be done in minutes by looking online. For those interested, try checking out www.findacreditunion.com and looking at a few local credit unions. Look at their fees and perks and compare them to the ones from large corporate banks.

Even for those relying on a large bank simply because of the convenience of nearby ATMs, it is possible to find smaller banks and credit unions that will refund the service charge.

For those that already intend on doing this, I have a few tips for doing so:

Customers who don’t want to have to carry around cash while waiting for new checks or debit cards to come have the option to open an account before closing their current one. That way, customers can still have access to their debit cards while waiting for all the paperwork to process. Once they get their new debit card, they can close their current account and transfer the money to the new one.

When customers close out their accounts, the service representative will almost certainly want to know why. The best way of dealing with this is to calmly state the reasons behind leaving the bank without being aggressive. The people who are asking these questions are likely only making slightly above minimum wage. They are not the ones responsible for hidden fees or abuses of power.

It is important to have a new bank picked out beforehand and to not be swayed by silly offers like a free toaster. They don’t care about their customers. They care about their customers’ money; that is all.

For more information on Bank Transfer Day, visit www.facebook.com/Nov.Fifth