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I’m sure I’m not the only one who was disappointed to learn that their bank was funding the Dakota Access Pipeline. It’s not surprising — it’s hard to find a bank who hasn’t done loads of shady shit in the name of capitalism. But we can be more conscious about our consumption. That is, if we’re going to participate in this system, we must also make an effort to put our money where our values are. We can force corporations to be better “people” by refusing to let our dollars sustain an unsustainable or downright reprehensible practice.
One of the reasons I enjoy my current bank is how easy it is to interact with it online and on my phone. There are a couple things I can’t really do without in a bank because I’m a freelancer; the ability to make mobile deposits, for instance, is the major one. The ability to locate a fee-free ATM is a close second. Touch ID on my iPhone is important, but not that important to me. For a while, I’ve been researching banks and credit unions that aren’t funding the Dakota Access Pipeline with the intent to switch. It’s as important now as ever, as President Trump is trying to push it ahead. Because my must-have list is so app-heavy, I suspected my research might be valuable to those techy queers among us as well. So without further ado, here’s what I’ve found out so far. It’s by no means comprehensive; please feel free to share what you’ve learned in the comments below.
OneUnited is the largest Black-owned bank in the US, and it’s not funding DAPL. While it only has branches in California, Massachusetts and Florida, its online game and app game is so good that you can open an account anywhere. It’s a certified community development institution, which means you’re banking with a purpose. They have a checking account wherein your monthly fee is waived every month you receive a direct deposit, and is otherwise a $500 minimum to avoid the fee, so that’s not bad. Once you open an account, you can download their app for iOS or Android, or use their online portal.
First Republic is a fairly mainstream bank with branches in multiple cities across the US. They’ve got an app that people seem to love, and it’s available on iOS, Android and Kindle Fire (though that last one, you’ll have a hard time cashing checks if your device doesn’t have a camera). And you can totally use their online portal as well. The catch with this one, though, is the high balance required to avoid the monthly fee.
This was a special request from Laneia, because Ally has a pretty great interest checking account (and with no monthly fee to boot!). I can’t find one single reliable source linking Ally to the Dakota Access Pipeline, so putting this here is almost a challenge — maybe I’ve missed something? Do you know something I don’t? If not, Ally’s interest checking can yield you .10% interest just on money you’ve got in your checking account—and that’s with a low balance. If you’ve got a higher balance, you might get more for your money. Because they’re not a brick and mortar bank, their apps and online tools are pretty rad. Once again, their app is available for iOS and Android.
What it comes down to is that credit unions are the best option. There are a ton of credit unions out there, and you should do research on your local ones. But in case you don’t qualify for any, Alliant lets you apply if you make a $10 or more donation to Foster Care to Succes, an organization that helps foster kids attend college, find mentors and more. Don’t get me wrong, there are a bunch more ways to qualify, like if you’re a member of the freelancer’s union — this form takes you all the way through checking it out, with the FCS donation being the last thing. If you can join Alliant, checking is free. Like, free free. Free of charges free. And their high rate checking? You’ve gotta have one transfer into the account per month and use eStatements and then THAT’S free. And it has a better rate than Ally. And they’ve got those sweet, sweet apps — both iOS and Android.
None Of These?
If none of these work for you, that’s okay! Check out SWICH, a database full of 30,000 plus businesses that share your values. You can get your SWICH score and the service will help you not only switch to a local bank, but may help locate ways you can be spending more of your money at businesses that aren’t trying to make the world burn.
this is soooooooo helpful thank you Ali!
Credit Unions are also some of the best options because you get to vote on important matters such as their board of directors, giving them more incentive to respond to their members.
Vancity and Coast Capital in BC Canada have both been great.
From “about us” by Vancity: “Vancity is a values-based financial co‑operative serving the needs of its more than 519,000 member-owners and their communities in the Coast Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw territories”
(No, I don’t work there…!)
If anyone is fortunate enough to be looking at mortgages, then I highly recommend this kind of research too…it’s the most money you’ll ever be spending, so why not make sure it’ll be used to strengthen all of our communities instead of tearing then apart?
Thanks Ali – this is such an important topic!
Also…a lot of Credit unions are now offering cheque deposit by phone too…helpful for self- employed people especially!
thanks for giving a canadian example! i’ve been living abroad but both of my canadian banks are backing dapl. definitely checking out vancity when i get home!
Credit Unions are a great option in the US as well.
They stick to traditional banking and are much more stable. During the financial crisis I think only one credit union closed nationwide. They often offer better credit products. They’re community based. And your savings are covered by deposit insurance like banks.
I recently signed up for Aspiration after my girlfriend got a flyer from them at a no DAPL protest. They give 10% of their revenue to charity, they let you choose how much you want to pay in monthly fees (you can choose $0), no ATM fees (or your fees reimbursed), and you earn 1% interest if you have a balance over $2500.
I should also add that if you sign up through their website you get put into a queue, but if you sign up via their mobile app (iOS or Android) you can join right away.
I believe signing up via a referral link should work right away too, and also you’ll get $25 to donate and the referrer will get $25 to donate.
Full disclosure, that is my referral link. I don’t think it violates comment policy to post it (?), but if it does please remove and I apologize.
This is so useful!! I was trying to find a good credit union but it’s surprisingly tricky to figure out what you qualify for. Alliant looks perfect!
I swear, you AS writers are like INSIDE my brain or something. This is exactly what I needed. Thank you!!
I’m wondering if anyone knows a good place to learn more about how credit unions have fared on this. I’m in a Disney-employee credit union because my mom used to work there but wondering if I should be worried about their politics and switch to a Black-owned bank instead! Thoughts on what to consider?
Re: herekitty– You might want to start by looking geographically. See which ones are closest to you, and then check out their policies. The ones with progressive policies make no secret of it, because it’s a major part of their value to people. If you’re looking for something specific that isn’t on their website, just call them and ask (or go in person if you can- everyone is nicer in person). Also see if your city has a directory of black or minority-owned businesses.
I don’t know if there are national directories of that sort of thing, but life is easier when your bank exists in brick and mortar in your neighborhood anyway, so you’re unlikely to want one with no local presence.
This article is incredibly timely, since I just closed my Wells Fargo account yesterday! Thank you, Ali!
If you’re in New England or the NY Metro area, I’d also recommend the bank I use. Every People’s branch I’ve ever been to has a diverse staff, they have a table at each branch spotlighting a local business, their banking history is long and clean. They also reimburse ATM fees!
Thanks for this – I’ve been meaning to figure out if I need to switch banks but haven’t gotten around to it, but lo and behold, my bank is on this list! :)
I use Ally for savings and I LOVE IT.
In case there are any Australians reading who are also interested in an ethical bank I highly recommend Members Equity (ME). It’s underwritten by the Trades Unions and while it only has a physical branch in Melbourne it’s really easy to do business with online and through Aust Post offices. You are eligible to join if you are in an Industry Superannuation Fund.
If you’re in the NYC, Chicago, or SF areas, I highly recommend Amalgamated Bank. They’re a union-owned bank that also does a lot of community development and has divested from ALL fossil fuels, not just DAPL. Their app interface is a little clunky but works well, and you get free withdrawals at all AllPoint ATMS (generally in drugstores). I switched when I closed my Wells Fargo account, and I love it. Plus I made friends with the teller who opened my account and I am really excited for her daughter and nephew to finish college!
I really need a new bank/credit union! My dilemma is that I will be mobile and might not have access to a physical building or atm. Any thoughts on these in regards to a mobile life?
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Good list of financial projects. In general, if you look in recent years, it will be clear that fintech projects have become very popular. See how many mobile banking and other financial solutions have appeared on the market. Also, developer companies like https://www.eliftech.com/fintech/ have also become more numerous, as there is a demand for new products