2011/11/01

It's not me, it's you.

During the holiday season way back in 2000, I opened my first bank account with Washington Mutual, or WaMu as her friends called her. Her tellers provided excellent customer service and had all the banking needs a person could ask for. Those were the days of 6% APYs on certificate of deposits, which is what first attracted me to WaMu. The summer before my senior year in high school, I would wait in line on Fridays every other week after work to physically deposit my hard earned money. Honestly, at times I grew impatient at how many people were also doing the same, but at the end, it was all worth it to see that balance increase.

In college, with the increasing popularity of online banking, I had the option to make life more convenient by utilizing this new feature. However, I still enjoyed the routine task of going by the bank and physically depositing my check. It was different than at home due to the difference in security between the suburbs and an urban downtown setting so understandably, customer service reflected this environment. This is when I decided that I should get a debit card so I would not need to see a teller every time I wanted to withdraw money. When I was home one summer, I told the teller that as my reason for wanting a debit card and he said, “But we like it when our customers come in to visit.”

The convenience of Direct Deposit and a debit card became too alluring, thus my relationship with WaMu continued and I did not give it a second thought.

At the beginning of my senior year in college, the first signs of our destiny began to show themselves. WaMu died and Chase came into my life. I did not see the death of WaMu as life altering, because Chase pretended to fill the void WaMu left by allowing me to continue with my WaMu Free Checking (which she later converted into the Chase Total Checking). I was cautious and began looking into Chase only to discover that she was not the same bank as WaMu. She is not only part of the American banking tapeworm, but she also absorbed a smaller bank that had been involved in the American slave trade. I began to have serious doubts about the morality of keeping my money in such a financial institution, but it took me a year before I my gaze began to wander and I began to really check out other financial institutions.

At this point, I met the credit union. Distinguishing itself as different from big banks in that all its members are part owners of the credit union itself. The credit union is a local financial cooperative that directly invests in and benefits the local community, in which its members live and work. It has the same convenience of major banks such as online banking, direct deposit, a huge network of free ATMs, and deposits (up to $250K) are insured by the United States Government. Plus, credit unions have better interest rates and they do not have all the fees that most major banks have. Furthermore, Catholic Social Teaching even advocates such a cooperative effort as the driving force behind a moral economy! This was truly a fresh, attractive alternative when compared to Chase.

Then the abuse began to be obvious when the economy collapsed and at my (and all taxpayer’s) expense, our Big Government issued a massive bailout to Chase and all her Big Corporation friends, because they were all engaged in toxic investments. I received emails on Valentine’s Day urging me to “break up” with Chase. I received emails on Independence Day urging me to “declare my independence” from Chase. Yet, I did not feel the urge to get out of my abusive relationship while simultaneously continued my infatuation with credit unions.

This year, I saw that I was not alone. Hundreds of thousands of people just like me were stuck in this abusive relationship with their banks too and decided to take to the streets. A local alliance of faith organizations including a Roman Catholic parish decided to close their accounts worth millions of dollars and move to a local credit union. They have had a relationship with Big Banks for a few decades and still worked up the courage to end it. This caused me to think, “If they can do it, why can’t I?” Furthermore, a recent statement that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace re-iterating the message of multiple papal encyclicals over the past century that highlighted the immorality behind unbridled capitalism, the same kind of unbridled capitalism that we have seen running amok this past decade.

So I decided it was time. At the start of November, I would tell Chase that we are over. After work yesterday, I walked into my local Chase branch for the last time and asked the teller to close my account. I was cautious not to tell him why, for fear of retribution as I have heard from other banks. What I would have liked to say to Chase was, “I don’t think we’re just meant to be great friends. You want more than I’m prepared to give (sometimes literally). You’re clearly not ready for a relationship right now. It’s not me, it’s you. I do not love you and I’m not in love with you.”

This morning as I wrote my last WaMu check to open my account at a credit union, I wrote in the Memo line, “I AM THE 99%.

If you are part of the majority of Americans across party lines tired of our Big Government funding Big Corporations, and Big Corporations telling Big Government what to do, please consider getting out of your abusive relationship with your megabank and look into joining a local credit union.

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