The Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington struck a nerve in the American public when she suggested on Dec. 29 that we take our money out of banks that are “too big to fail” and put it into community banks or credit unions.
In other words, vote with our pocketbooks against the venal, corrupt institutions that caused the U.S. economy to crater and were rewarded with billions in taxpayer bailout dollars to save them from the consequences of their short-sighted greed and folly.
Welcome aboard, Ms. Huffington. We walked away more than a decade ago. We have two checking/savings accounts. One is with the Fort Worth City Credit Union, which my partner can use because her grandfather was a Fort Worth city employee for decades. We opened that account back in 1989.
A decade later, we moved our second account from Bank of America to a credit union serving residents of our small Texas town just south of Dallas. It was a minor pain in the keister to move the money. The satisfaction of blowing off BofA was priceless.
The BofA account did not start out at BofA. It began in 1981 at First National Bank, a Texas-based institution that, like most large Texas banks at the time, served consumers as an afterthought but really cherished commercial business. Then the 1986 oil crunch hit, and FNB became First Republic, merging with its statewide rival in a desperate bid by both parties to remain solvent.
The years passed. We watched as a larger regional player stepped in to acquire InterFirst before it swooned into bankruptcy. That regional powerhpouse was, in turn, snapped up by BofA. Along the way, customer service evaporated, fees for everything exploded, and we finally cried, “Enough!” and left in sheer disgust.
That was at the height of the 1990s dotcom boom.
We have never looked back. The service is great at both of our credit unions, and the one in our town, which deals with us on a day-to-day basis, knows our names, and refuses to deliver check refills to our home out of concern about identity theft. (Instead, the CU has the checks delivered there and calls us to come get them.)
Any money we subsequently earn will go into credit unions or small local banks. Once we pay off our credit cards, we will look hard at how to ditch plastic, too, and go all cash.
BofA never noticed or cared about losing our meager dollars. But if thousands and maybe millions of us make the effort to walk away, it will hit the big boys in the only place they can feel–their pocketbooks.