SF-Based 'Move Your Money' Campaign Takes Aim At Big Banks

This Pi Day, a new campaign is encouraging San Franciscans to “take back their piece of the pie”—by moving their money out of a big bank, and into a credit union.

The campaign, dubbed Move Your Money, will host a kickoff event tonight at Mission bar Cease & Desist. They'll be offering unlimited pizza for $8, as well as financial advice on how to divest. Local radio station BFF.fm will be broadcasting live from the event.

Move Your Money's organizers say they drew their inspiration from the Grab Your Wallet initiative, which asks consumers to boycott companies that have business relationships with President Trump, and Sleeping Giants, which enlists everyday people to encourage companies to remove their advertising from websites that promote hate speech.

In recent months, activists have encouraged those who oppose the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline to move their money out of major national banks that support it. But confusion and inertia often make it difficult for even supporters to make the switch. 

“There's been a lot of people saying 'Move your money,' and a lot of people know that," said Tim Lillis, a San Francisco-based illustrator and designer who is part of the group behind Move Your Money. "The hurdle is, ‘How do I do that?'"  

Instead of banks, Move Your Money encourages people to look into credit unions, not-for-profit financial cooperatives owned by their members. They typically offer the same services as banks, but profits are reinvested in the credit union, instead of paid out as dividends to shareholders. 

"Aside from activism, it's just really better for your wallet to be with a credit union," Lillis said, noting that credit unions often have lower credit card fees, and higher interest rates. While some might be concerned about smaller ATM networks, especially when traveling, he noted that many credit unions now reimburse ATM fees.

Lillis said that the process of selecting a credit union and switching automatic bill payments and direct deposits to a new account can be daunting, but it ultimately isn’t difficult.

“It's just kind of a matter of putting a day on the calendar, and saying, 'I'm going to get this done,’” Lillis said. Most of the work can be done in a few hours.

With that said, Lillis and the campaign encourage people to do their due diligence when it comes to research, as each person's financial situation is unique, and a credit union might not be right for everyone.

The Move Your Money campaign kicked off with this informative video.

Lillis collaborated with local filmmakers Javier Briones & Vanessa Carr, animator Rose Kang, and musicians Zack Wright and Stella Lochman to produce a short, informative video on how to switch banks.

It includes nuggets of helpful advice, like leaving a month to make sure any lingering auto-payments have been switched, keeping printed records of previous bank statements, and making sure your Netflix account is switched.

The tricky elements that account-holders often forget are infrequently recurring bill payments that occur every six months to a year, like website registration.

Moving forward, Lillis said that Move Your Money is trying to reach out to credit unions, to see if they want to get involved directly. It will also continue to conduct research on which banks are investing in which controversial projects, and turn that research into graphic art.

"We want to start kind of locally, where are sphere of influence is strongest," Lillis said. "Obviously, taking it national is going to have more impact."

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Sf based move your money campaign takes aim at big banks