By William Hamilton
PBN Staff Writer
Abel Collins made the move in January.
He walked into a Bank of America branch in South Kingstown and asked to close his savings and checking accounts. He told the bank staff he planned to deposit his money into a nearby Newport Federal Saving Bank.
“They seemed sad about it,” Collins said of the BofA employees, recalling how they made a last-ditch effort to keep his business by noting that the bank had paid back its $45 billion federal bailout.
“I actually never had a bad experience at Bank of America,” said Collins, program manager at the Sierra Club in Rhode Island. “I wanted to take my money [out of a bank] that had helped to finance the housing bubble.”
Collins is one of untold bank customers nationwide who have been inspired by the Move Your Money campaign, an Internet-based effort to convince people to shift their accounts from the banking giants to community-based institutions.
The movement started at the popular Web site The Huffington Post at the end of December as part of the backlash against financial institutions that are perceived to be too big to fail.
Proponents of Move Your Money contend pouring money into locally based banks and credit unions serves to punish the mammoth institutions that some say touched off the economic downturn, then received a taxpayer-financed bailout. Supporters say using a community bank has added benefits for the local economy.
The campaign has drawn a lot of attention, but its effects are difficult to measure, at least at this point.
Banks are due to file their first-quarter regulatory reports – which will include an accounting of deposits – with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation within the next month.
At the very least, Move Your Money organizers say the community-bank search feature on their Web site, moveyourmoney.info, has been used for every zip code in the United States.
The movement also has captured the attention of banks and credit unions, both big and small.
Big banks downplay its effects and contend that those customers who move will miss out on superior products at competitive prices.