Occupy Wall Street has dominated headlines for the past few weeks, with advocates and critics jaw-boning over whether it was government or Wall Street that fuelled the financial crisis (here’s a vote for both).
But even critics can’t argue about the growth prospects of the “occupations” taking place in urban centres across the U.S. Now comes an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street that takes aim at banks where it hurts them most — in their vaults.
The social uprising — called “Bank Transfer Day” — encourages bank customers to take their cash out of big banks and put it in smaller banks and credit unions instead. The movement is ostensibly in response to aggressive fees institutions are rolling out to recover profits lost from new financial regulations, notably Bank of America’s decision to stick debit card users with a $5 monthly fee and Wells Fargo’s $3 test of the same.
On the movement’s Facebook page, protest organisers say that, even with new government regulations in place to keep banks in check, they’re still making out like bandits. For example;
- With the Durbin Amendment in effect, banks will still make 19 cents profit per processed transaction.
- The average consumer uses his or her debit card 24 times per month.
- Without the additional fee, Bank of America stands to turn a $3.3 billion annual profit from its 59 million customers’ debit card transactions.
Here’s an explanation from the organisers of Bank Transfer Day, straight from the group’s Facebook page:
“Together we can ensure that these banking institutions will always remember the 5th of November!! If the 99% removes our funds from the major banking institutions on or by this date, we will send a clear message and give the 1% a taste of the fear that we experience every day when we aren’t able to pay for our rent, food, medication, utilities, student loans, etc.”
As of Oct. 10, the group’s organisers say 6,500 Americans have already signed up in support of the event. How many of those consumers will actually yank their deposits from big banks is an open-ended question that won’t be answered until Nov. 5, if at all.
But the protest won’t be going away. Consumers who want to join in only have to take three simple steps, organisers say:
- Open an account with a credit union.
- Transfer your funds to the account (online or in person) by Nov. 5.
- Follow your bank’s procedures to close your account.
Bank Transfer Day organisers are not only hoping to piggyback the media interest on Occupy Wall Street. There’s a deeper well of consumer dissatisfaction that the group wants to tap into — that “I’m mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore” frustration, immortalised in the 1976 film Network.
Six thousand, five hundred bank transfers won’t cut it, even though the movement still seems to be growing. In the way they treat customers, big banks could keep those numbers where they are, shrink them — or cause them to grow into something truly significant.