By Cameron Fure
MNA Political Organizer
Since the election this last fall, many have been searching for ways to get involved in their local communities and play a bigger role in influencing change in our country. Some decisions may be made behind closed doors in the corridors of power of Saint Paul and Washington, DC, but we can fight back—with our pocketbooks. Where we spend our dollars matters, and companies notice when we patronize businesses we like and boycott those that exhibit questionable or unacceptable behavior.
Large financial institutions have reaped the benefits of doing business in our country by charging exorbitant overdraft fees and infinitely increasing fees when using out-of-network ATMs. The big banks’ average ATM fee is $4.57 according to BankRate. The three largest banks in America (Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase) raked in $6.4 billion last year from these fees alone. That’s roughly $25 for every adult American. What’s more, that total was up almost $300 million from fees collected in 2015.
Beyond the penalties imposed on account holders these big banks are paying exorbitant amounts of money to their C-suite executives. In 2015 Wells Fargo CEO, John Stumpf, made $19.3 million; JPMorgan Chase CEO, Jamie Dimon, made $18.2 million; and Bank of America CEO, Brian Moynihan made $13.8 million. These figures do not include additional compensation including stock options, life insurance, private plane rides, etc. Even if we don’t begrudge someone being successful, compare those salaries to the average bank teller (at those companies) who makes roughly $12.77 an hour. It’s easy to make a case that these salaries are outrageous.
The big banks are healthy and profitable again. Banks raked in $171.3 billion in profit in 2016 alone, and since the financial crisis in 2008, the big banks have made nearly $1 trillion in profits while paying $321 billion in fines for their problems they created back then. Yet, we continue to support a for-profit banking system that continues to be fined for under-handed attempts to separate customers of their hard-earned money.
Local banks and credit unions are worthy alternatives that ensure that our collective wealth is not concentrated in so few hands. Banking locally benefits our local communities and encourages resources are re-invested in our backyards. Credit unions exist to help people, not make a profit. Compare the fees and loan rates of credit unions to any big bank, they’re lower. When credit unions do profit, they pass along to their members via lower rates on loans, higher interest on savings or certificates of deposit. In addition, many credit unions belong to co-op network ATMs and branches, which allow members to go to use other cash machines without being subjected to additional fees. Where we keep our money may be the easiest and strongest message of showing the powers-that-be we can also vote with our dollars.