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Move Your Money

by Miriam Axel-Lute on October 26, 2011


Dear JPMorgan Chase,

After many years, I’m leaving you. I tried to think of our credit card as a secondary sort of relationship. All my bank accounts have been with credit unions for over a decade. It was just a credit card. But I finally had to admit it was serious. Lured by free train tickets, I was putting most of my monthly expenses on it.

We had a hiccup when I was forced to realize that even though I pay it off every month and don’t pay you a cent of interest, you still extract exorbitant fees from every merchant I use the card with. I tried to train myself to go for cash or debit with my local businesses at least. It made a difference, but not really enough. That’s a lot of cash to carry sometimes.

Friends suggested that if I only use the card with other big corporations it would just be moving money between corporate behemoths, sort of a wash. Even if I were that strict about it though, I could be directing those fees from other corporations to a better bank. Any way I look at it, you’re still making a lot of money off me that doesn’t have to go to you.

Thanks to watching my fellow 99-percenters across the country finally rising up and saying “enough,” my family has decided to give up our “rewards” and say “enough” as well.

Enough with “too big to fail” institutions.

Enough with socialized losses and privatized gains

Enough with your financing of mountaintop removal coal mining.

Enough with avoiding taxes, taking bailouts, giving yourself bonuses based on fictitious profits, and scapegoating homeowners rather than passing on the bailout funds to the people who really deserve them.

Enough with tricking homeowners into modification processes and then forcing them into foreclosure.

Enough with refusing to consider principal reduction to the current market value of homes.

Enough with your lobbyists—$66.7 million worth from you alone since 1998, $4.6 billion from the financial sector, according to AlterNet—having more say in our supposed democracy that the voters do, and fighting the very sorts of reforms that would prevent another crisis.

I am joining Bank Transfer Day, and prior to Nov. 5, I will be closing my credit card with you and opening one instead with my credit union.

Like the woman who declared Nov. 5 Bank Transfer Day, I am inviting my friends and family (and readers!) to join me in moving their accounts, credit cards, and investments (and even ATM usage) away from the big banks, whether to a credit union (member-owned financial institution, of which we have several fine options in the Capital Region) or community bank.

I hear from my credit union that membership is already picking up. Some of the new members are supporters of the Occupy Wall Street protests. They are putting their money where their mouth is. Others are not activists particularly, just sick of being jerked around by their banks.

I am not naive that I will find a perfect banking relationship. While most of them are great, I know credit unions and small banks are not covered by the Community Reinvestment Act. I know their trade associations sometimes forget that their interests are not aligned with megabanks. I know we, their new member-owners and customers, along with our neighbors will have to keep alert to make sure they aren’t redlining, discriminating, offering questionable products, or funding destructive deals. But I think we can be up to the task. That is the work of a functioning democracy.

It sure beats funneling more money into your too-big-to-fail, criminally arrogant, predatory coffers, only to see it vaporized because you can’t keep yourself or your traders from playing get-rich-quick schemes with our economy as collateral.

If you tell me before Nov. 5 that you are adopting a policy of principal reduction for all underwater mortgages, that you will cease lobbying against reasonable regulation of the financial sector, and that any loss in profit you might suffer due to financial sector shenanigans will be honestly recorded in your books and come first out of executive-level pay rather than your customers’ pockets, I might reconsider my move. You may let me know via national media outlets. I’ll be watching, but I won’t hold my breath.




On another note: To the APD and all those who stood up to Cuomo to allow Occupy Albany to make its case: You made me so proud to be from Albany this week. Thank you, and thank you to everyone making the occupation itself go. You are being heard.