Occupy Holds “Bank Transfer Day”

Occupy Chicago is holding a “bank transfer day” this Saturday, urging local depositors to shift their money from profit-driven banks to non-profit credit unions.

“The banks are the 1%. We are sending a clear message that we intend to regain control over our money by putting it in customer-owned credit unions,” says Natalie Wahlberg, identified by Occupy as “a former university instructor.”  “Bank of America backed down on new fees for debit card users because we stood together as a movement. It’s time for people of conscience to put their money where their mouth is, and stop supporting corporate criminals and the banking elite.”

Removing your money from a bank and depositing it in a credit union may make a political statement, but is it better for you financially?

Credit unions, I’ve found, offer slightly higher rates of interest than banks. Recently, a teller at my big, evil corporate bank tried to interest me in opening a savings account.

“What’s the interest rate?”

“One-tenth of one percent,” he said. “Having a savings account isn’t really about collecting interest anymore.”

“That sounds good for you, pal,” I said. “You get my money to loan out at 5 percent and I don’t get anything. I’m keeping my savings in a money market account.”

Credit unions are slightly better, but not much. First Northern Union offers a .2 percent interest rate for customers with less than $25,000, which is probably more than the assets of the entire Occupy movement.

On the other hand, my big, evil corporate bank has ATMs everywhere -- in the grocery store, tucked under the L tracks -- so I rarely have to pay fees for using another bank’s machines.

The personal finance website Wise Bread offers this endorsement of credit unions: “because of the democratic organization of these institutions, they are often able to offer higher interest rates and lower fees than their corporate peers. Also, because credit unions are smaller — and often local — institutions, they may offer more personal customer service.”

If you want to hear it from the Occupiers themselves, here’s Saturday’s schedule:

From 8am-1pm, Occupy Chicago invites groups and individuals to stop by Jackson & LaSalle to pick up flyers explaining why the move from banks to credit unions is so important. They will be encouraged to share this information with customers at specific corporate bank branches.    

From 2pm-5:30pm, in Grant Park at Michigan and Congress, the International Bedlam Society and Occupy Chicago present Keep Your Children Occupied!, a family fair featuring face painting, coloring, bubbles, hula hoops, live music, and sing-along’s.

There will likewise be two teach-ins on Saturday. The first, from 3pm-6pm at Jackson and LaSalle, is on Public Housing and the Plan for Transformation with Professor Mary Platillo of Northwestern University. The second, from 4:30pm-6pm in Grant Park at Congress and Michigan, is titled TIFs 101 - Chicago's Budget for the 1%, with Ben Joravsky, who writes for the Chicago Reader.

In Naperville at 10am, Occupiers are meeting at PCN bank, at 9 E Ogden, and will march to the Riverwalk Amphitheater for a General Assembly. At 4pm, Occupy Rogers Park is gathering at the Glenwood, at 6962 N Glenwood. They will board the Red Line train at 5pm and head to Jackson & LaSalle.

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