Move your money to a local bank, campaign urges

By Kara McGuire Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — Unhappy with the culture on Wall Street? Angered by the behavior of the banking giants? Then move your money to a community bank or credit union. That’s the message of Move Your Money, a campaign that’s gone viral since it launched late last year.

Jeanne Griffin is sold on the concept. It’s not that she’s had problems with her big bank. But the bank bailout “did bother me,” said the 34-year-old technical analyst. “All of us are paying for all of this and it’s hurting the economy,” she said. She opened an account with Bremer Bank, because “they aren’t about making money off of people.”

It’s no surprise that Marshall MacKay likes the idea. “It’s a pushback to what we’ve seen play out in the economy,” said the president of the Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota. He says community banks are well-suited to the times. “The more dollars that you put in your local community bank, the more funds that they have available to lend to the consumer to buy a house, or a small businessman to produce products or services, or thankfully, employ people.”

In this era of tighter credit, community banks are more likely to consider more than just a credit score when lending out money. Plus it’s easier to find someone with the power to make decisions if you have mortgage trouble.

Morningstar banking analyst Jaime Peters thinks the movement is feeding off of negative perceptions about bailouts of the big banks.

While the financial crisis might prompt some individuals to reconsider their banking relationship, it’s not showing up in the numbers. Big banks actually captured more market share in the aftermath of the crisis, Peters said.

When asked about the movement, the Financial Services Roundtable, a lobbying group whose members are large financial institutions, responded: “A customer should place their money with the financial institution that best serves their individual needs. If a consumer is not happy with their current institution’s level of service or product offerings, they should contact them or find another institution that fits their needs better.”

As for your money’s safety, “unless you’re somebody who is going to be exceeding the FDIC limits (of $250,000) as far as deposits go, your money is safe whether or not you chose a large bank or small bank,” Peters said.

To assist you in your search, Move Your Money has partnered with a risk analyst who grades the health and safety of community banks. You can search for one near you by ZIP code. Find credit unions near you at www.creditunion.coop.

Life is ever-changing and our financial needs with it. Take the time to re-evaluate your banking relationship now and then. Is it working? Then maybe switching is too much of a hassle. But if you’ve been meaning to shop around, be sure to explore all of your options — credit union or bank, mega, medium or small.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What do you want from the institution that holds your money?

    Does it have free ATMs in convenient locations?

    Does it have branches close to you?

    Does it offer free checking and other products? Consider not only your current needs, but your needs five years from now, Peters suggests.

    If you bank online, is the Web site up to snuff?

    If you use a personal financial management tool such as www.mint.com, is the bank or credit union compatible?

    Does it offer financial education for you and your kids?

    Is the coffee any good?