An online media maven is urging Americans to switch banks, and she wants her crusade to go viral. On the Huffington Post website, founder Arianna Huffington introduces what she calls the "move your money" campaign. The idea is to get Americans -- all Americans -- to close their accounts at big banks and transplant their personal finances to smaller banks. The budding cause has its own web site, moveyourmoney.info, including a link where you can plug in your zip code and find a list of smaller banks.
Huffington singles out the Big Four banks (that would be Bank of America, Citi, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo) for particular ire, pointing out that they've curbed business lending even since receiving TARP money. She urges Americans to park their money at community banks instead of these TARP-receiving behemoths.
Noted finance blogger Felix Salmon picked up on this story and pointed out that if you are going to take the trouble to move your money, you should consider credit unions as well as small banks when looking for a new home for your hard-earned dollars. (See WalletPop writer Julie Tilsner's screed on just this topic.)
Whether or not this campaign makes enough of an impact for the big banks to notice is anybody's guess. It's a pain to switch accounts, especially if you have direct deposit or automatic bill pay (which is why banks are so eager to peddle those services, in case you were wondering). According to the American Bankers Association, the average person's bank account only has about $4,000 in it, so many, many current customers of the Big Four would have to switch institutions before it made a dent in their bottom line.
That said, we here at WalletPop never want to miss a chance to remind you that it's your right -- some might even say your duty -- to shop around for the best financial institution that suits your needs. According to Institutional Risk Analytics, the company that provides the search tool on the Move Your Money website, there are 4,700 hundred banks in the U.S. it ranks as "A" or "A+" in terms of how healthy they are. So you have plenty of options, but do your homework first. (See our guide to choosing a bank here.) At the end of the day, even if this campaign doesn't succeed in making the Big Four don't change their ways, if more Americans wind up at banks that make them feel like valued customers, that's a good thing.
The "move your money" movement gets noticed