My first social finance endeavor will be switching my checking account to a community bank! But before I go out and do it, like any conscious consumer, I have some research to do. (Definition of Community Bank)
So why switch to a community bank?
Are you pumped to move your money now!? I sure was when I watched this video. It was made by the Move Your Money Project which is pretty much a one stop shop for everything you could want to know about moving your money from a big bank to a community bank (I highly recommend their Checklist). While I am all for the idea of shifted assets having a huge impact on local economies, I am not willing to subscribe to the claim that these large institutions haven’t made at least some improvements until I do more research. We’ll save that for a future post. For now let’s focus on the benefits of Community Banking, according to the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) and Move Your Money.
-Community banks have better rates and fewer fees: This is either because they are non-profit or sacrifice some profitability to better serve their customers.
-You get a more personal touch from a community bank: Community banks are built on relationship selling and therefore have a more vested interest in getting to know you. Also there a simply fewer customers and a very good possibility the employees live in the same neighborhoods as their customers.
-Community Banks invest locally: which means you are investing in your community. This keeps your money in your community, increases economic development and eventually, creates more local jobs.
Cool! so whether the big banks are really as bad as people say they are or not, there are some solid reasons why local banking is a great choice. So where do I find one? The ICBA and Move Your Money have nifty bank finder features. They come up with slightly different results for a given zip code so I would check both to best evaluate the options in your area. What bank have I decided to investigate further? City First Bank of DC.
Full Disclosure: I came into this, having already seen their Vice President, Kim Levine, speak on a panel and I was really impressed.
They are a nonprofit bank in Washington D.C. with the mission to provide financial and other services in low to moderate income communities. It is basically as social a bank as I could find in the D.C. Metro area.
I decided that I would visit the bank in person to ask them some lingering questions, and was so hyped up on the Move Your Money video that I didn’t think twice about calling them and seeing if I needed an appointment. I’m not going to lie, I was a little disappointed. There was nothing wrong with the conversation. It just wasn’t the enthusiasm I was led to expect based on the Move Your Money video. We’ll see if my in-person visit today goes any differently.
Here are some of questions I want to ask City First Bank:
How do I access my money? Do I get a bank card? Is there a fee for using ATMs?
Do you offer credit card options?
Where does my money go?
What is the process for transferring all of my money?
If you have any questions you want to ask, shoot me a tweet @nextgenvestor. Otherwise, be sure to check up on the twitter feed. I’ll be tweeting updates and pictures of my trip!