Kristen Christian was sick of Bank of America.
The Los Angeles art gallery owner had both personal and business accounts with the big bank, and had had enough of ridiculous fees and poor customer service.
So Christian created an event on Facebook called “Bank Transfer Day” and invited 500 of her friends to close their accounts at big for-profit banks and move their money to credit unions on Nov. 5.
The movement spread -- quickly.
The Facebook page has over 8,000 “likes,” and over 35,000 people have RSVP'd “yes” to making the move.
We caught up with the event's 27-year-old creator to ask her more about the movement, its supporters and why she’s no terrorist.
Q: Why do you think this idea caught on, and caught on so quickly?
A: I believe that many Americans feel, as I do, that these big banks have been afforded the opportunity for far too long to mismanage funds and utilize unethical business practices.
This movement has a clear and concise directive with a simple action enabling every American to independently participate. The result offers to enhance local economies, making it a personal investment for each of us.
Q: What made you decide to turn this from one person (and small business) moving her money and take it public into a national day to get out of big banks?
A: When I created the Facebook event, Bank Transfer Day, I never imagined it would reach the levels it has. I created the event from my personal Facebook account and invited 500 of my friends. From there, word spread very quickly.
Q: On a personal and small-business level, what advantages do you see of banking with a credit union?
A: Not-for-profit credit unions offer each member lower fees, improved and individualized customer service, lower interest rates on loans, higher returns on savings and the opportunity to invest in the local community's economic growth.
While each credit union has a board of directors, they aren't compensated financially for their time or energy commitments.
In addition, credit unions offer members the opportunity to vote on any major changes that the institution is considering (such as mergers with other credit unions).
Q: What do you say to people who suggest that this is an act of terrorism?
A: I wholeheartedly believe that anyone who views this movement as an act of terrorism or treason doesn't understand the positive impact this action will have on our current economic state.
These corporate-level, for-profit banking institutions caused the economic crisis.
It's clear these banks don't intend to take steps to ease the situation.
After being bailed out JPMorgan Chase chose to use the funding for acquisition of other banking institutions to expand its holdings.
By investing in credit unions, we're enabling lending to small to medium-sized businesses with low interest rates.
This will enable independent businesses to expand their operations and perhaps hire additional employees, creating more jobs.
Q: What's the dumbest bank fee that Bank of America ever levied on your account (personal or business)?
A: The Bank of America website was down, so I called to speak to a phone representative. I was charged $2 for calling in because I "could've done this transaction online."
The policy in place was ignorant to the fact that I was unable to complete my transaction online because of a failure on the company's part.
During a second incident, I was attempting to transfer funds from my personal to business checking using the website. The funds disappeared from my personal account (an outgoing transfer was acknowledged), but did not register in my business account.
I spent four hours speaking to representatives before the issue was resolved.
Q: What about Bank of America’s recent decision to charge customers $5 a month to use their debit cards?
A: Customers who have more than $20,000 in combined accounts are exempt from this fee, making it abundantly clear that Bank of America is targeting the impoverished and working class with these new fees.
Q: Has Bank of America reached out to you?
A: Bank of America as a company hasn't reached out to me.
Several of their employees have infiltrated the Bank Transfer Day movement, posting comments on the Facebook page and event page stating this will cause a complete economic collapse, sending our country into a second Depression.
I've independently confirmed employment of at least three of these individuals.
Q: You told the Village Voice that you'll have to go to an actual branch of Bank of America in person to close your business account. Anything special planned for that visit?
A: According to Bank of America's policies, all account closures must be done in person.
When asked why I'm closing my account I will cite the mismanagement of funds and unethical business practices.
I do note here to all supporters that any bank employee you will ever come into contact with receives just over $10 per hour in compensation for their time.
They are, in fact, part of the 99%. I implore all supporters to treat these employees with nothing but kindness and professionalism.
Q: Where's the best place for people to find out more information on Bank Transfer Day?
A: The public can view more information at http://banktransferday.org, which forwards to the official Facebook page.