Searching for an Honest Bank

Dan Gillmor is a BoingBoing guest-blogger.

Late last year, just before Bank of America closed a deal to buy a failing Merrill Lynch, the BoA's executives signed off on $4 billion in bonus payments to Merrill Lynch executives and senior employees. This, after we taxpayers had poured more than $45 billion into saving these incompetent and/or corrupt people from their financial follies.

Merrill and BoA have done their best to stonewall the public from learning any details about this sleaze, including some very suspicious timing. And these bonuses were only a relatively small portion of the overall shower of cash that rained on people in an industry that did more to ruin our economy than any crew since the 1920s.

One of my projects keeps its money at Bank of America. I want to move the money to a bank that behaves more honorably. This isn't just a moral issue, but also a financial one. An institution that behaves the way BoA has done in this situation, among many others, can't be trusted.

It's not just a business account that I want to put in an institution that I have more reason to trust. I'm also looking for such a place to put my own personal accounts, which are currently at Citibank, an institution with less-than-zero credibility at this point.

I'm looking for ideas on a) what constitutes an honest bank; and b, if such an entity exists, what specific services (such as electronic transfers and bill payments) are bottom-line requirements.

Thoughts? Suggestions?


  1. We just switched from WaMu and Wells Fargo to a credit union. I think just about any credit union is going to be better than just about any bank.

  2. I think smaller and more local is better usually. This can also include internet banks. My main bank was an insurance company that expanded to banking. Every time I talk to them on the phone I get ace service. I’m not sure how the back end works with them, but atleast the front is good, which is tough enough to find.

  3. Credit unions generally can’t handle business accounts, as far as I know. Am I mistaken on this?

  4. Ditto on the credit union. Also I may just be lucky, but there are several very small community based banks where I live that have full online services. Not only do I keep my money in them, one of them holds my mortgage and has a track record of NOT reselling mortgages. I’m keeping the money within my own community which I consider to be important.

  5. While credit union regulations may vary by state, I know that credit unions in Florida can handle business accounts.

  6. Credit Unions. I have been a member of mine since I was a teen-ager and they give benefits that a normal bank would hardly ever consider. I have been getting free checking for over 15 years….they were one of the first institutions in the state to do that. My account has never been off by even a penny. You elect the bank officers yourself which means you have a voice in who does what with your money. The interest rates are pretty incredible as well, and my institution has never even been close to being in the red as they are super cautious about the loans they DO give. It’s harder to qualify for the loans but that is something I am more than willing to put up with.

  7. I just moved my money to Golden1 Credit Union. Wells Fargo bought Wachovia but I was in India so I suffered through that at the time. Still, next time I go overseas, I’ll put money back in Wachovia because every single time I go overseas Golden1 screws me over. My favorite being when they canceled my ATM card when I was in Australia for 4 months. They got hacked so they canceled everyone’s ATM. The “We sent you a new one” vs. “Yes, but I’m in @#$%ing Australia” was a revolving conversation. Still, local sleaze instead of international sleaze.

  8. I don’t have time to get into whether or not banks are inherently “good” or “bad”, and whether or not you can ever really trust one.

    But as the lesser of many evils, there may be some whose policies at least aren’t totally abhorrent.

    UK-based online charity site The Nag recently compared different banks according to their ethical practices, and a couple came out on top:

    Their top three:
    1) The Co-Operative Bank
    2) Smile
    3) Norwich & Peterborough


    Of these, The Co-Operative Bank and Smile (owned by the same parent company) are the most proudly “ethical” (e.g. they won’t invest in fossil fuel companies, only sustainables), and they develop their investment policies in consultation with their customers.

    However, the one I find most interesting as a business model is the Norwich & Peterborough. To quote: “It”s value is more about the clean, closed loop of its mutual building society structure. If you join and become a member, you either put money in, through savings, or take money out, through loans and mortgages. Most of the money doesn’t leave this closed group of members, so very little is invested in distant projects that are valued by the returns they make regardless of the broader impact.”

    (Note – I have no connection to any of these banks!)

  9. USAA. they do insurance and also function as a bank. You have to be US military related, either through family or yourself, to get in, though.

  10. Credit Union is definitely the way to go. We use Redwood Credit Union in the north bay – I think you have to live in one of the north by counties to do so, but there’s probably an equivalent in the south bay (if that’s where you are). They do handle business accounts.

  11. My CU allow business accounts. I also like the previous points that have been made. What I really like is when you need a loan or have questions, someone actually sits down and talks to you. It’s not a just computer generated yes or no.

    Plus my CU gives me 4% interest on my checking with no minimum balance. (just have to fulfill other qualifications which 95% of checking account holders do already) I dare you to find a bank that will do that.

  12. Local banks. Real local, not fake regional banks with local sounding names. I just found one and have started the process of moving everything over from BOA myself. Credit Unions are also often local (but not always).

    Local is also important because its more likely the money stays local. Reinvesting in other local businesses, neighbors, family, etc.

    Link to PDF which has many studies of going local vs bigbox stores (which is somewhat relevant).

  13. I don’t know anything about honest, but TD Bank (formerly Commerce Bank) is awesome. They’re open 7 days a week, they’re open till 8PM on several of those days, the tellers are polite and competent, and they give out free pens.

    I know this doesn’t really answer your question. They could be mismanaging my money horribly for all I know, but at least they make banking convenient and painless.

    Also, free pens.

  14. someone pointed out to me that the spanish banks were not allowed to trade in derivatives and therefor the abbey and santander are actually pretty good.

    in terms of service i’ve always found first direct to be very good.

    it’s actually odd to call your bank and be answered by a person, i keep thinking i’ve dialed the wrong number.

    they are owned by HSBC though which i’m sure has been up to the same crap as the rest of them

  15. @numike

    Some credit unions are beginning to behave like banks, and that Florida situation is a very isolated incident. The vast majority of credit unions are currently solvent, safe, profitable, and honest because credit unions are designed in a fundamentally different way than banks.

  16. About the closest thing to an honest bank you’ll ever find is a Credit Union. As always, do your research before choosing one.

    Caveat emptor.

  17. @P1RAT3 et al,

    I’ll second the HSBC suggestion. While they aren’t perfect, they seem to be committed to not being as big screw-ups as everyone else. I’ve been told they’ve turned down bail-out money at least once, and cut executive pay to do it.

    Full disclosure: My father works at HSBC. He’s not an executive, but works for/with them. I consider him to be one of the more ethical people I know, which has caused problems in past jobs, but not at this one.

  18. Credit Union, but do your research before joining. I’ve been a member of CPM Federal for over 30 years and they are the perfect blend for my checking and saving needs. I’m currently 1100 miles away from my branch and have never had a problem.

  19. As for the traditional big guys, Capital One is noteworthy. Although they’ve taken federal funds, the CEO has pledged not to accept any compensation (can’t even sell his own restricted stock) until all TARP funds are repaid to the gov’t.

    Capital One is known for being highly analytical – that’s how they had the confidence to enter the sub-prime market in the first place. They’re endangered by their large sub-prime credit portfolio, but they now operate retail banks in NYC area, Louisiana/Texas, and Metro DC, with pretty good products.

  20. My Wife manages a Bank of America branch is neither dishonorable, incompetent nor corrupt. There is another side to this bank bashing bandwagon you’ve jumped on that you are oblivious to. You should just walk into your branch and address your stated concerns one on one with one of the thousands of real people BOA employs and then make a choice. The people on the ground had nothing to do with the Merrill Lynch acquisition or bonus fiasco (which is still unresolved in the courts).

  21. Can’t think of any institution I detest more than BofA.
    Love my local credit union. They all know me, like me, and I like going there.

  22. As everyone said – credit union is the way to go.

    Research them of course, but I’ve yet to see (or even hear of) a dodgy one.

  23. I keep my money at Bank of America but haven’t been pleased with the service lately, especially at my local branch.

    I’ve never really considered moving to a credit union. Is there really any reason NOT to? If they’re so perfect how come the banks aren’t out of business?

  24. It’s interesting that few people have brought up ethical practices in addition to prioritising good service and stability.

    I’m currently paying off my overdraft, but once I have, I’m switching to a bank that won’t invest my money in unethical companies and industries. Esp. when it comes to fossil fuels VS sustainable energy, I think that’s a smart move.

  25. “USAA is top notch in service and advice.”

    I’d be interested to know what they invest in, though. Fluffy bunnies and marshmallow companies, maybe?

  26. I actually use ETrade Bank. If you have enough money in all your accounts combined (brokerage included) you get free and automatic ATM free refunds. And they have the best banking website I’ve ever used.

    Downside is if you need to do business at a branch- they are pretty few and far between. So I have a CU account that I transfer money to/from if I need to go somewhere in person.

    And the phone support is pretty good too.

  27. More ups for the credit union, if you can. (Mine doesn’t do business accounts.) But they’re everything a bank should be, if you’re a customer. (I guess they make up for it by being not at all what you want in a bank if you just want to get profits from investing in it.)

    If not, research your local banks. There was just an article about the big one around here (Burke & Herbert) being really great, but the only business experience I’ve had with them is that the company stopped using them after they lost the *second* deposit in two months. Everybody else seems to think they’re fantastic, though, so possibly it was just One of Those Things.

    I don’t think there can be such a thing as an honest bank that’s also big enough to be national. Get past a certain size, and the psycopathy starts kicking in.

  28. I’m Canadian, so our banks aren’t as crap, but for me and my business my credit union has done very well.

    In B.C. all credit unions now have unlimited deposit insurance though the government.

    Also, you can deposit cheques into any credit union ATM, not just your own.

  29. My free advice, which is worth all you pay for it and more, (now with less sarcasm and even more sincerity!) suggests ING Direct.

    I have a fair chunk of my money with them, the rest with Bank of NovaScotia (ScotiaBank) and do everything online between the two. ING sends a debit card in the mail for ATM withdrawals direct from the account, and pay a little better interest rate than most other financial institutions. My face-to-face needs are met via ScotiaBank, which has been pretty good, although the fees are a bit high if you keep less than a certain amount in the accounts.

    I’ve been banking with them strictly online for over 5 years now with NO problems… at all. Ever.


  30. We switched from a credit union TO a bank, because my wife didn’t like the CU’s policy of not sending us the cancelled checks. Then, of course, the bank got bought and the new policy was ‘no cancelled checks’!

    Everyone’s gone paperless on the checking front, which is one of the things that always makes me nervous – when you are reconciling your account, and an entry in your checkbook doesn’t match the bank statement, you don’t have the source document to prove the bank right or wong. Yes, you can view a scan of the check online – but it’s not absolute evidence: in these days of digital image manipulation, how can you trust digital evidence, especially when owned and proferred by the very entity whose statement you are calling into question?

    I don’t have an answer to this, other than using checks with tissue-paper carbons, that pick up the amount if you write hard enough. We’ve had to develop some amount of trust for the bank – but, it can never be 100% (see above).

    Just wanted to point out one minor banking issue we have, that not everyone sees.

  31. I wish I could make my home computer a bank. That way I could direct deposit my money into my own bank account.

    Then I would make 100x that amount available for loans. To me.

    Then I would default, and I would ask the government to absorb my bad assets and still keep my direct deposit.

    Then I would bonus myself for being for so damn clever using the money the government gave me.

    Then I would loan out my next direct deposit to myself…

  32. I’m going to join the chorus. The way that I explain credit unions to other people is using the phrase “non-profit bank.”

    wrap your mind around that concept. Local control. Officers elected by the actual customers. No focus on quarterly dividends because the customers are the owners. Reasonable fees that can be waived in appropriate circumstances.

    This is why almost all financial education in our public schools is created by financial institutions — they don’t want people to even know that credit unions exist. And since many of them are employer-based, people are already locked into a relationship with a bank before they even qualify for the credit union.

  33. @Utilitygeek – I did a lot of research myself while looking for a new bank, and HSBC came out on top by a significant margin. But they won’t let me open an account because my office is too far from a branch to make a site visit.

    At this point I’m willing to pay travel costs if it’d mean getting away from my current bank. Might your father be in a position to know if there’s a way to make this happen?

  34. Credit Union… Washington State go with BECU (Althouth it is named Boeing Employees Credit Union anyone in Washington can join). It is the largest credit union in the state (that I know of) which means many branches, ATMs, and better services; all with credit union low rates.

  35. #42: People still pay for things with cheques? For real? Wow. I haven’t used a cheque for years now.

  36. I’m looking to get a home mortgage soon, as was looking at my local Cambridge Savings bank, but am interested in Credit Unions.

    Are there good Credit Unions in the greater-Boston area? Do they work through sites like LendingTree?

  37. @47

    My company has just gotten our credit line from Cambridge Savings Bank upped. Apparently they have lots of money to lend out, because they didn’t make the stupider investments, and because people are more leery of borrowing money in this economy.

    So, if you want the advice of a random internet stranger, that’s what I know.

    Honestly, for a personal-use bank, ATM location is my most major factor.

  38. Once more vote for the Credit Unions. I have accounts with two of them (Travis and Golden 1) and they are much better than either of the banks I have had in the past (Wells Fargo and US Bank). I still have the US Bank account, but I’m seriously considering ditching it soon. Travis offers business banking too.

  39. While I agree that USAA is the bank of awesome, they don’t do business accounts. (I asked.)


  40. First, you need to read “The Creature From Jekyll Island”, and then put your money in a Credit Union.

  41. My girlfriend uses M&I Bank, and her mother is a branch manager there. They are based in the midwest, have conservative lending principles, and did not engage in subprime lending. I highly recommend banking with them.

  42. Dan, I think you’re still in Silicon Valley. I suggest Wells Fargo if you want a bank. If you want a credit union, try Addison Avenue – they’re the ‘HP’ CU, and have an excellent ranking. My credit union in Santa Cruz, Bay Fed, does indeed have business accounts.

    By the way, I’m a big fan – many thanks for your excellent work through the years. Happy to see you guesting for Boing Boing.

  43. Banks work in the best interest of their shareholders. Credit Unions work in the best interest of their depositors.

    Only deal with banks as a shareholder.

  44. Credit Unions are not perfect creatures. I would caution you to look for cross-collateralization clauses in the terms of any loans or credit cards you take out with a credit union. Common practice in that industry and can have nasty consequences for the unsuspecting.

  45. No need to add to the discussion on credit unions. Except to say that I, too am a credit union banker and will continue to be.

    If you want to take the local benefits even further, see if there is a local currency group in your area and then figure out if it is possible to invest your financial resources in them. Dollars tend to flow out of communities, contributing to the aggregation of wealth amongst an elite. Local currencies stay put, greasing the wheels of economic activity where it matters most to you – where you live.

  46. @Dan Gillmor, while I can certainly understand your frustration, I’m puzzled by the statement:

    This isn’t just a moral issue, but also a financial one. An institution that behaves the way BoA has done in this situation, among many others, can’t be trusted.

    Did something happen with your project’s funds at BoA to indicate there was a problem? I don’t understand how you’re connecting the dots to a ‘financial’ one. If the account was held locally and the bank was responsible with your funds then I respect your objections on moral grounds, but unless something occurred with your account, then I’m not seeing the financial issue. “Trust” is still a moral issue.

    Also, for an alternative, at least to saving money–my wife and I have an Orange savings account through ING and we’ve had good experiences in saving, and with the company.

  47. I think 13Strong is right: a lot more discussion hear about services than ethics. We just don’t think much about what our money does once it’s “in the bank”.

    I guess one of the advantages of credit unions is you don’t have to worry about that so much.

    My own experience has been with 5 different credit unions. I say, go mid-sized CU. Small enough that they trust you and you have input, large enough that they have full electronic and internet service.

    I’ve loved every CU I’ve been with to bits, with the exception of Golden 1, which made me sad and angry whenever I tried to do international transactions.

  48. Most of my hippie friends use Wainwright Bank because they find it non evil. I think it’s local to Boston, though.

    The problem with local banks, though, for me at least, is that they get bought by bigger banks. I’m at Sovereign Bank now because it’s the physical bank I had an account with since I first got one. At the time it was a slightly larger than local bank, but since I’ve had the account, it’s been sold at least twice, and just got sold again to a Spanish bank. The one nice thing about it is that since i got it in person in my small town, the people who run it still know us. My mom has an account in the same bank, and they’ll call her if she’s going to bounce a check, so she can stop by after work to move money around.

  49. Another member of the credit union chorus.

    I have used them for primary personal and business accounts in two states over the last 20 years. Of course, do you research and find a good one but I couldn’t see going to a bank again.

  50. I want to echo the positive Credit Union opinions already expressed, and also offer a great resource for finding banks and credit cards. The organization Co-op America just changed their name to Green America – their mission is to “harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.” Their most recent money newsletter (called Real Green) has an article on choosing credit cards which also talks about the kinds of institutions that offer credit cards. Here is the link:

  51. Credit Union, Credit Union, or in a pinch, Credit Union. Co-ops & credit unions are the way to go. And this is coming from someone who HATES the local co-op market (it’s accidentally elite, it smells & the granola crunchies that roll down from Colrain & Leyden have a surprising lack of manners…especially when it comes to us townie commoners. But I digress).
    Credit Union.

  52. Nobody’s recommended it so far, but I’m going to have to recommend Schwab. They’ve so far been pretty reasonably isolated from the credit crisis, due to responsible lending practices ( They have one of the better interest rates on their standard checking accounts (currently 1%, but varies with the economy). They have 2% interest right now on their brand-new investor savings accounts. Their VISA card offers a flat 2% cashback, which is one of the best deals around right now.

    The website is fantastic for managing your accounts, trading stocks, and managing your retirement portfolios. Their customer support has been top-notch every time I’ve needed to use it. They refund _all_ ATM fees, with no limit. And they make you feel important to them as a customer.

    Since using Schwab, I’ve moved virtually all my accounts over to them, one by one. I have two checking accounts, two brokerage accounts, one savings account, my credit card, and a Roth IRA set up with them, and I couldn’t be happier. They seriously, seriously kick ass.

  53. How about keeping your money with Bank of America, and ask them why you should continue to do so. Ask them why they seem to be giving deposits and shareholder value away in bonuses, increasing fees, and lowering paid interest and dividends. You could also express your interest in improved social practices. If you don’t get a reasonable answer, tell them so, and then move your personal accounts to a credit union. Better than the anonymous kiss-off that wouldn’t affect anything. You can call them on their code of ethics:

    Write to: Corporate Secretary at Bank of America Corporation, 101 South Tryon Street, NC1-002-29-01, Charlotte, NC 28255

    Others have mentioned limitations on business accounts at credit unions. What do you mean by “business account”. If it’s simply a separate checking account, I doubt that’s really a problem. However, I’m fairly certain if you need a merchant account, your choices for a “Good” bank will be nil. Consumer credit card issuers are the next big evil that we are about to unveil as the unemployed begin defaulting on their 25%+ rate, delinquent, minimum-payment indenturement they’ve been living on.

    I’ve been very curious and skeptical why there were bonuses issued at institutions that recorded enormous losses, and were approaching insolvency. Were these contractually obligated bonuses for the few people that had profitable results in positions unrelated to sub-prime lending and residential mortgage backed securities. Or were these just bonuses for upper-level executives trying to clean up under the cover of the transfer of ownership. I haven’t seen any real statements in regards to this.

    I thought that when I initially read about them, the CountryWide and Merrill Lynch purchases were both very good business decisions made by a very conservative bank that was working with the government to rescue failing businesses. Whether the magnitude of the Merrill Lynch failings were fraudulently disguised, and last minute pillaging occurred, it certainly seems likely given some of the other excesses that have been admitted. Are those things that should be blamed on the acquiring bank? The actions of Bank of America with regard to the CountryWide purchase seem to be pretty decent. Certainly when compared to the taxpayer and consumer rape that is PennyMac.

    I have been extraordinarily happy with Bank of America. I have personal relationships with multiple people at my local branches. I have been with them for nearly 20 years and have learned to navigate around fees, and take advantage of their wide variety of services and unmatched convenience. Their lending practices are enviable; providing excellent rates to excellent credit risks. They are regularly praised in the local press for their community lending practices that significantly exceed state and federal mandates. They do not engage in sub-prime lending.

    They are a bank, and they are in it for profit. They charge very high fees for standard accounts and services. They are a bit slow at improving their infrastructure, and most of their recent upgrades seem to be motivated by how much it saves the bank, not how it benefits or bothers the consumer.

  54. I have been a happy customer of Union Bank of California, which as far as I’ve been able to tell, has not been caught up in any of the “Tainted assets” crap.

    They are, however, not an ‘merican bank, as they are owned by Mitsubishi Bank of Tokyo (or some such). I don’t know if this would cause you pause or not.

  55. Government Credit Unions are awesome. Unfortunately usually you have to be directly related to someone who works for the gov’t to get an account. State Credit Unions are nice too though.

  56. Our money is with a CU; however, I use a BofA credit card (airline points). BofA site has an incredibly useful “My Portfolio” feature which is just as good as Microsoft Money or Quicken (plus its online so you can access your info from anywhere). If I stopped using the credit card I would prob still keep it just to have the “My Portfolio” function.

  57. Note: As a poor person, I have no financial interest in ShoreBank Corp — — other than deep admiration and hope for its success.

    ShoreBank Corporation is America’s first community development and environmental bank holding company. Headquartered in Chicago, ShoreBank is a $2.4 billion company with banks and nonprofits in Chicago; Cleveland; Detroit; Ilwaco, Washington; Portland, Oregon; and Michigan’s Upper Penninsula; and consulting services around the world.

    Triple-Bottom-Line Performance:
    * $2.4 billion in assets
    * $4.2 million in net income
    * $445 million in total mission investments in 2006:
    $185 million in conservation loans
    $415 million in community development loans
    $156 million in loans that achieved both environmental and community impact
    * $3.3 billion in cumulative mission investment and 52,000 affordable housing units financed

    Highlights of 2006 Mission Investment Loans:
    * $223 million for residential real estate
    * $152 million to small businesses
    * $40 million to nonprofit organizations

    Business Lines
    Services to local customers by banks and nonprofit affiliates:
    * Residential real estate loans that strengthen communities, provide affordable housing, and build borrowers’ wealth
    * Loans to small businesses and faith-based and nonprofit organizations that create jobs and expand community services
    * Conservation loans for projects that reduce energy consumption, remediate contamination, or support green business practices
    * Bank deposit and retail services

    * 578 total employees in the U.S. and in international offices
    * 56% are African American.
    * 43% of officers and 28% of senior managers are minorities.
    * 54% of officers and 30% of senior managers are women.

    Shareholders include financial institutions, foundations, insurance companies, major corporations, and individuals.

  58. Any specific recommendations for Credit Unions in northern California?

    Savings Bank of Mendocino County was always good to me back when.

  59. Nobody has mentioned a bank that adheres to Islamic rules. IT SEEMS that due to these rules, they are significantly safer and are not affected by the current crisis as much.

    I say “IT SEEMS” because all I know is merely what I have read, and that is certainly not enough to exhaust the topic.

  60. Canadian banks are very solid, even now, and (relative to U.S. banks) trustworthy, so really any one of them would do.

    Also ING Direct, if you have access to it.

  61. +1 Schwab.

    They’re very insulated from the Crisis as they weren’t mixed up in the more complex investments. Their service is stellar, their website is tops, and the access to research is nice too.

    And they’re Bay Area, SF local!

  62. With the overwhelming support of local credit unions by people here, I am considering switching to one. But how do people deal with ATM fees? I use one of these big evil mega banks and I am addicted to the free ATMs nearly everywhere.

    I’d say I average about one cash withdrawal per week. If I keep say, 2k in a checking account, even at 4% interest, I’d make $80/year in interest. With ATM fees at about $3/transaction ($3 * 50 = $150), I’d be down $70 net per year, and still have the pay taxes on the interest.

    If anyone has any suggestions for good credit unions for people who spend most of their time in Jersey City/Hoboken/Manhattan, I’d love to hear them.

  63. I have never had a problem with any credit union I’ve been with, in any state I’ve been in, Ohio and Arizona.

    Banks are for profit institutions, of course you’re going to get screwed.

  64. Ditto #75, Union Bank of California.

    I’ve been banking with them both personally and professionally for at least 15 years now. They have just stellar customer service, excellent terms, and very reasonable fees (when they apply).

  65. I love my credit union aside from them not wanting to lend me any money lol.

    Localness of a bank is not a panacea though. It probably it good for the community and avoids some of the problems with larger banks, but a lot of local banks are still not great with the customer service and shenanigans with regards to arbitrary charging of high penalty fees.

  66. Dilante, there was a report on BBC or C4 a month, or so, ago about Islamic banks.

    You’re right, they do SEEM to be.

  67. jeez maybe American boomers would not be going to the poorhouse in their retirement if they had worked harder to prevent their Governments from spending the entire social surplus of their generation on wars, military spending and the institution of a “national-security” (= no-security for individuals) state.
    And then taking whatever was leftover or could be borrowed, and giving it to those who had profited most handsomely from the afore-mentioned policies: international banks and Wall street investment firms.
    Opportunity costs to the American public-at-large of the cumulative military spend since 1964 has been horrendous….well, of course you can’t afford single-payer health-care! of course you cannot afford to pay welfare! It’s all been already spent, on wars, and on keeping your “free-market” banks operating at a profit.

  68. Check out wikipedia’s article of Ethical banks including a list of ethical banks.

  69. Triodos Bank, The Netherlands (also based in the UK, Belgium and Spain).
  70. Co-operative Bank, United Kingdom.
  71. Reliance Bank, United Kingdom.
  72. ShoreBank, USA.
  73. RSF Social Finance, San Francisco and New York, USA.
  74. Shared Interest, based in the United Kingdom, investing throughout the developing and developed world.
  75. Wainwright Bank, USA.
  76. Cultura Bank, Norway.
  77. GLS bank, Germany.
  78. JAK members bank, Sweden, interest-free bank.
  79. Alternative Bank, Switzerland.
  80. Triodos Bank, based in the Netherlands with branches in Belgium, the United Kingdom and Spain.
  81. Banca Popolare Etica (Italy).
  82. Crédit Coopératif (France).
  83. Citizens Bank, (Canada).
  84. Bendigo Bank (Australia).
  85. Green banking options remain limited, EIRIS says Specialized green ethical banking.
  86. Merkur Bank, Denmark
  87. ShoreBank in Chicago ( is a great choice. No other bank in the world has its history of fighting redlining and economic racism.

  88. +1 for the islamic banking model. it’s more conducive to honesty.

    how about all that rampant greed huh? That’s the real problem – we always want more than we need.

  89. I would recommend the Dutch Rabobank*, a cooperative banking institute. It is the only privately owned bank in the world with an AAA rating (highest credit rating, comparable with the creditworthiness of governments). Furthermore, it’s one of the world’s fifteen largest financial institutions.

    Due to the cooperative nature of the bank, I would personally say it’s a ‘honest’ and ‘good’ bank, involved in many community activities.

    I’m not sure how the service is abroad (though they’re present in 45 countries), so you might want to double check that.

    Read a bit more at Wikipedia:

    *) Disclaimer: I’m Dutch

  90. You might also want to check out mutual banks. These are banks, not credit unions, but they’re owned by the depositors and operate for their benefit, not distant stockholders.

    When I lived in Pittsburgh, after our old banks were eaten by bigger and less customer-friendly ones, we moved to Dollar Bank, a mutual bank serving western PA and eastern Ohio, and I was very happy both with their account terms and their customer service. I only wish they served the area where I live now.

    They’re not as common out west as in the east, and some of them have converted over into stockholder banks. But you might still find one in your area that suits you. I’ve found a list of mutual banks in the US that may help you look for one.

  91. My father is a financial consultant for ML. When ML got bought out by Bank of America, he got offered signing bonuses from several other Financial institutions. They wanted him to come work for them ,and bring as many of his clients as possible with him. Merrill Lynch then offered him a retention bonus, as an incentive to stay. The bonus he was offered by Merrill Lynch was hundreds of thousands of dollars LESS than the bonuses he was offered by the other institutions that wanted his clients.

    He decided to stay with ML because it would have been a hassle to start somewhere new, but a lot of people in his office left, and took their clients with them.

    Would it have been a smart business decision for BoA/ML to not offer financial consultants a retention bonus? probably not. They needed to retain clients, and to do so, they had to buy not only the company, but the financial consultants that control the clients.

    I didn’t read the article, so I don’t know if it was talking about bonuses for financial consultants, or for more managerial executive positions. If they were giving executives who aren’t directly involved in retaining and bringing in clients (and clients money), then that’s stupid. In fact they should cut down on managerial positions. The financial consultants are in effect paying the company part of the commission they make from managing individual client’s accounts, in order to use the company infrastructure. They don’t need mid level managers to tell them what to do, or to encourage productivity, because they are in essence self employed and are motivated by commission.

    So anyway, I think some have you might have missed some of the more complex points of this issue, and also capitalism sucks sometimes, but it’s good to make good business decisions.

  92. Wells Fargo. I’ve been with them since 1980 (via Northwestern Bank which begat Norwest which then merged with WF) and they’ve always offered me great service. They do all sorts of favors. When I told them ahead of time I’d be in Australia when my card would expire, they arranged and mailed it to me Down Under while I was on vacation. They’ve worked with me on spending patterns and whatnot to protect my card and keep me from running up big receipts. And they’ve done countless other odd requests.

    My personal checks still say Norwest Bank and they work swell. :) My business account is a little more pricey than I desire but I cannot say enough about the staff.

  93. I have had some bad experiences with credit unions, especially ones that just built new administrative offices and decide its time to raise every/all conceivable fee to pay for that expense.

    I bank at Zions Bank now. All good so far.

  94. Hi, I’m a banker, and I’d love to have your deposit accounts. But for the sake of your convenience, I can’t recommend my institution. I’m also a localvore, and I’d suggest you look into a locally owned community bank. Our breed does banking sustainably, because we have to keep food on the table too, and we know you do the same.

    My folks and I have been community bankers for the past 20 years. We take our deposits locally, and we reinvest them in our community. We know all of our customers on a first name basis. We know their kids, their grandkids, their pets’ favorite treats. We are not alone.

    There are thousands of independent community banks across the United States who do good work for their customers and their communities. And we can deliver all the bells and whistles that big banks offer because technology is a great leveler.

    A bank is nothing more than a fancy database with various applications built on top so that you can access the information it holds. Money isn’t green; it is digital. We don’t need to be on Wall Street to have a cool website. We’re on Main Street, so if you have a concern, you can walk in and talk to my Dad & I, and we won’t bullshit you.

  95. Another vote for credit unions. Most are part of the CoOp ATM network (28,000 in the US, including every 7-11 ATM). You can text your address or ZIP code and get a text back with the 2 nearest ATMs. In addition, many participate in shared branching (CU service centers), meaning you can go into some random CU across the country and do your banking.

  96. Sounds like we need to accelerate the creation of Common Good Banks; first pilot will be in Western MA:

    Not just another bank with a social agenda. This is

    • Profits go to local schools and nonprofits.
    • Depositors decide what the bank should invest in.
    • Free local credit card processing for local businesses.
    • Micro-loans for new businesses and community projects.
    • A full range of secure, FDIC-insured banking services.
    • Committed to sustainability and economic justice.

    Once the first common good bank exists, 50 people ANYWHERE can start one in just a few days, with no need for a bank building.

  97. I just want to point something out about local banks: They’re local. You can’t find one everywhere, and so you get hit with fees any time you travel, not only through them, but also via other banks you interact with. I used to have a local bank, but ended up getting an account at a large national instead.

  98. I’m reminded of a quote from an Ani Difranco/Utah Phillips spoken word album. I will be paraphrasing, somewhat inaccurately, I’m sure.

    “what I would like is for every worker to arm themselves with a gun or a knife and stationing themselves at the doors of the rich, shoot or stab them when they come out.” -Mother Jones.

    But seriously, what a bunch of arrogant twats.

  99. Just switched my accounts from Wells Fargo to ING Direct. Although it’s a pain that I have to deposit into another account and then transfer, or mail checks in, everything else has been great, especially the interest.

  100. That’s the advantage of CUs, Anonymous @108 – the CoOp Network mentioned above takes care of fees – although I didn’t know about 7-11s, sweet!

  101. If any of your family has been in the military, USAA is the best “bank” I’ve ever had in my life. Thanks to my father-in-law we have access to the military’s “credit union” HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!

  102. Jumping on the CU bandwagon too. Full disclosure: I work for one of the largest. I ended up switching all my accounts from BOA to my employer because I believe in their message, the executives believe in their message, and so do all the employees. Highly ethical company. They treat employees and members very well, and are on very sound financial footing.

    Why anyone would go with a bank anymore, I have no idea. The Co-op Shared Branching network makes it easy to bank in 47/50 states and 5 other countries as well. Online services are free and easy to use.

  103. I had a good experience working for a local community bank. Left, though, to be a stay at home parent/grad student.

  104. People buy fabric grocery bags because its environmentally irresponsible to waste a bag to tote some groceries a few blocks. Where is our economically/socially responsible bank? Try googling “money as debt” and watch the video. I need not say more.

  105. Yeah, I don’t really agree with the idea that BoA was completely reckless and dishonest with their bonus payments. Company’s don’t pay out bonuses by stealing from investors or something, or from funds that will do damage to a company. Bonus payments that deteriorate the value of a company is stupid, because then shareholders will bail on them – and share price is important for these guys receiving a bonus.

    Perhaps, and this is what one of the Merryl guys argued I think, these execs actually stopped the complete failure of the bank after the crisis hit. Sure they played a part in it getting to the crisis point, but not because they were just incompetant.
    If you save a company, is that not worth a bonus?

    I have no evidence for this, but either do you that BoA was dishonest. Its just your opinion, biased against bonus payments.

  106. Try a local or regional bank with only a few branches in one or two states or cities. Associated Bank of Green Bay is an example.

    Credit unions are another good idea, as some people above have already suggested.

  107. The most important thing about this is maybe not which bank you go to, but that you leave BoA. Doing what you’re doing – particularly if this was done on a mass scale – would lead VERY QUICKLY to a change in policy, both from the bank themselves and from government, who currently are doing nothing to enforce any kind of responsible behaviour on these people who have put us in the situation we’re in.
    Did you know that less people change their bank than change their partner.
    Imagine the shareholder reaction at a BoA board meeting where the board is being informed that “there’s a run on our bank – only ours – and it’s because of Thain’s testimony yesterday” – heads would be rolling pretty quick.
    When you know where to go with your money, the next step is to get a mass movement going to get other investors in this immoral scheme to refuse to participate anymore.

  108. For my personal accounts, I use a credit union–two credit unions, actually–because I get way better treatment from them than I’ve ever gotten from any bank, local or ginormocorp.

    Credit unions can’t take business accounts, though, so that’s not what Dan needs.

    I say, if you’ve got organizational funds to bank, look for safety, service, convenience, and cost, in that order. As for the ethics of it all? I ask along with Berty (as they called him on Broadway) Brecht, “What’s robbing a bank next to founding a bank?” It’s a clarifying question. My thought is, any dollar fished from the stew of finance will taste much like any other:

    “The food is terrible–and such small portions!”

    Don’t be that person, okay? Get the best deal you can from whichever bank gives it to you.

    Remember when Bart (as they called him in Nashville) Brecht used to play Grandpa on Hee Haw? How he’d stand with that cloth, wiping that window, till the chorus yelled, “Hey, Grandpa! What’s for supper?” Then he’d put his hand right through the pane of glass, blood dripping, and say, “Grub first, then ethics.” Then the chorus would rhyme back, “Yum/yum!”

    Be like them.

    Bonus fun fact:

    Burt (as they called him in Hollywood) Brecht appeared as Grandpa in every episode of the seventeenth season of Hee Haw, and in every episode, delivered that line.

    Brecht was originally signed for the eighth season, but insisted on putting his hand through the glass for every episode. This required extensive recovery time between shoots; however, it should be noted that his every scene was shot with just one take. His season’s worth of shooting was completed nearly a decade later, by which time he was dead.

  109. The Navy Federal Credit Union is the largest banking institution in the world. I wouldn’t bank anywhere else.

  110. Navy Federal Credit Union, Pentagon Federal Credit Union and Rock Island Arsenal Federal Credit Union have all been good to me – Old Gaijiin

  111. Credit Union!
    If you live in a town with a university, check out theirs, most let people who live or work in the same county join.
    Also check large companies. Some have their own credit unions, again with open membership to those who live in the same area.
    My CU accounts are with my alum university and StarTribune newspaper.

    I recommend a “local” credit union, not a “federal” one, which is basically just a bank.

  112. Disclaimers up front, I:

    * am employed by US Bank in IT
    * have an account with ING Direct
    * have an account with a local credit union
    * keep some funds in a brokerage account

    As one index into your BofA banks are run by self serving money hogs criteria for evaluating banks check the CEO and officer pay levels of institutions you consider. The information is easily found through Google Finance. US Bank’s CEO is paid well under a million a year – other large banks have CEOs making multiple millions a year.

    As to the relative advantages from a consumer viewpoint:

    ING and the Credit Union pay high interest on savings and checking accounts, but have limited ATM availability. US Bank ATMs are everywhere in the region where I live. The brokerage account pays virtually no interest on cash. ING is also great as a “hub” through which one can funnel ACH (automated clearing house) transfers between everything. Their web site is one of the easiest to use.

    Depending on the financial service I wish to get I turn to each of the institutions for what they do best. That’s why I have a handful.

    Your post said you want to be out of BofA and that you have personal and business accounts but not much more. (That’s understandable.) However, it is the details of your account needs that should drive your decision. What places have the service offering that fits your use?

    As you might guess I don’t think the answer is just one place.

  113. Hi, I’m Tesh, and I’m a financial educator and speaker who just stumbled onto this site. I’m a Credit Union member, and I’m happy such a majority of you have weighed in on the benefit of Credit Unions. It’s amazing how many people aren’t taking advantage of them right now.

    However, there appears to be a huge misconception pertaining to business accounts. The fact is, many if not most Credit Unions offer a business product of some kind. My local Credit Union offers a very simple, easy-to-understand business account with free checking; just maintain a balance of $300 – that’s not a typo: the minimum balance is only three hundred dollars. If you go below, that’s okay too – the monthly minimum balance fee is only five bucks.

    There are no hidden fees. Write as many checks as you want, see a teller as often or as little as you like, unlimited online banking & bill pay as well as VISA debit card usage – all free of charge. Plus, thousands of Shared Service Centers (think “bank branches” except they serve multiple Credit Unions) and even more free ATMS. It’s ridiculous… the very definition of a no-brainer.

    Some smaller Credit Unions and some that are structured differently based on the markets they serve don’t have an overall need for business products. Example: an employee-based Credit Union, full of members who all work for the same company, wouldn’t offer a business account because it wouldn’t make sense. Some tiny community-based Credit Unions don’t offer business (or even personal) checking accounts, though these Credit Unions are mostly merging with other local ones so they can adapt to modern products & conveniences without losing any of the service Credit Unions are famous for.

    However, most mid-size to large Credit Unions that offer membership based on the surrounding community (i.e. you must live, work, worship, or vomunteer within the neighborhoods,cities, counties, or state the Credit Union is authorized to serve) offer business products that would make your local bank rep spit fire.

    Credit Unions aren’t in it for the money. They’re by the people for the people. They are the people – that’s the difference. The board-of-directors at a Credit Union is completely 100% volunteer. They are unpaid – no bonuses or “gifts” either. They’re elected by you, the members, from among yourselves, to represent the best interests of everybody.

    There’s no fee for membership; just open a small savings account (some as low as ten bucks!) That’s it. Business or personal accounts: it makes no difference. Check out a Credit Union sooner rather than later.

  114. Navy Federal CU may be good but not everyone can get in, you or your family has to be member of the (mainly DoD)branch, the closest ‘cheat’ is getting in on the household qualification as if you have a roomate who is a member you’re in the household and qualify.

    Other CU’s like Pentagon Federal are much easier to get into because you can simply purchase a one year membership to national military family association and be qualified.

  115. Bank in Canada. RBC and CIBC both have American branchs, however the American branchs are still goverened by Canadian Financial and Insurance policy. Read up on Canadian banks and you’ll find that all that red tape we have to go through did some good in the end.

  116. I couldn’t read all the comments, but local banks and credit unions seem to have a lot of boosters. I agree. A few years ago, on moving back home and needing a bank account, I looked into which ones had a good record — especially not being predatory lenders. Local housing nonprofits had done the gruntwork for me, so I picked a bank that had good reviews. Turns out my social conscience was good economic policy, too — because my bank didn’t lend willy-nilly while trying to work good deals for poorer people, and because it still services its own mortgages, it’s in pretty good shape.

  117. Disclaimer: I work at BB&T, but I’m a tech geek, not a marketing guy.

    BB&T is all about responsible investment and lending practices. For this reason, it’s one of the few large banks that actually made money during this mess. Here are a few of the reasons for its success:

    – The recently retired CEO, John Allison, worked for BB&T for 37 years before retiring this past year.

    – Motley Fool named Allison the Best CEO of 2008.

    – Allison wrote a strongly-worded open letter to congress in opposition to the financial industry bail out. That’s balls.

    -The current CEO, Kelly King, has also been working for BB&T for 37 years. 37 YEARS, SON!

    – “The 10 executives will not receive money from BB&T’s short-term incentive plan for 2008 even though the bank posted a $1.5 billion profit in 2008.” ( Contrast that dedication to the fly-by-night, million-dollar bonus guys that are running many of the other financial institutions these days.

    The bank’s core values and ethics are so important to the company that every employee is retrained on them yearly. (

  118. I posted earlier, but this is really bothering me.

    This article, and the links it contains, made me realize just how easy it is to get manipulated by media. It’s hard to know if you’re tricking yourself into thinking you understand all sides of the situation. It’s easy to be reactionary. Especially when the article is deliberately misleading, and leaves out key information.

    The bonuses were in large part payed to financial advisors, as an incentive to stay with Merrill Lynch. Financial advisors in essence provide the revenue for the company by paying ML part of the commission they earn managing client accounts in order to be able to use the company infrastructure. Other financial institutions had offered signing bonuses greatly exceeding those offered by ML to the top financial advisors and consultants, in the hopes that they would jump ship and bring their clients with them. One of these competitors is actually recommended in comment #73.

    Maybe this whole story is just about good press for the district attorney of NY. You know… down with evil corporate greed.

    yeah, sometimes capitalism sucks, but in this case ML was making a good business decision, and you can’t fault them for that.

  119. If you live in France, i suggest trying La NEF. It’s a small “human bank” that have zero account in fiscal paradises or weird ultra-capitalist formula. They only invest your money in green bizness (organic farms, fair trade shops etc.) and you can choose that a fraction (or the totaly) of your annual interest go to some green/humanitarian organization.

    Interesting fact: the economical crisis didn’t hurt them AT ALL ;)

  120. The state of these bigger banks in the US – Bank of America comes to mind…sickens me. Ironically the big 5, make up only a fraction of the amount of banks in the US. The majority did NOT receive bailouts and MOST adhere to scrupulous business practices yet they get a bad reception for the fact that they ARE a bank.

    We can all point fingers and blame the bigger banks for their terrible practices, reductions of credits lines, seemingly endless increases in APRs, bad customer service…the list goes on…but the majority of us, if we look in our wallet, hold a credit card from a major bank or our ATM is from a major bank.

    If we really wanted the madness to end and not have to payout to these monster banks…then we should take a stand!

    Pull out our money, close our cards, start banking the way we USED to. Taking cash out on Friday for the weekends. Banking with a local bank that knows your face when you walk in. Keeping our money and our business in the community. We have to power to make these banks fail. If our own government decides to pander to these banks, it does not mean that WE have to. It’s like criticizing a friend who is in a bad relationship for sticking around, when your own is not in the best of shape either.

    We have had a hand in this situation by choosing convenience over good banking relationships! If you want to talk about accountability…perhaps we should look to ourselves. We are not helpless creatures that are victims of a tyrannical government. It’s still America. I think for all of us to sit around and wait for the Obama effect to happen is ridiculous. We all need to make a change and take a stand!

  121. Don’t think Credit Unions OR small-er banks are necessarily the way to go either. I live in South Carolina and the banks that sound small have had some mysterious massive spurts of growth. Adding tons of services and many more branches without the ability to actually service the accounts they’ve guarnered. It makes you wonder IF some larger bank actually controls the smaller bank/loaned them the cash for their expansion KNOWING that alot of folks believe the BIG Banks are only for BIG Biz.

    Echo that with a local Credit Union that is FULL of incompetents. Refusing to release direct deposit SSI and Civil Service retirement funds days after those still on paper checks have received theirs. Charging overdraft fees minutes ahead of direct deposits due on the same business day. (That’s a BB&T “trick” taught the rest in the playing of the “minutes game” where deposits are run AFTER debits. Back in my day (13.5 years of banking), a local state bank would’ve had a “run” on them by their customers if they’d tried this hookerdoo. (The ultimate exercise of consumer “Grey Power” by Depression Era survivors.). YOU always run your credits first before you take out your debits. You cannot accurately balance your books if you do this.

    My brother banked with a local credit union for 25 years. He had several thousand in deposits, had paid off three car loans, several personal loans, and never ever was late. He goes to buy a 5000 dollar used car. Some “still wet behind the ears” fresh out of college smarty pants tells him that Equifax has given him a lower credit “Score” due to his wife’s/my sister-in-law’s “high balance” on their joint accounts and therefore, they can’t give him a loan. My brother asks what about HIS history with the credit union. He was told by this young smart aleck that didn’t matter anymore. (The accounts were with another bank, not the credit union btw)
    About two weeks later, the same credit union didn’t stop an autodraft from going through. (My brother had given them notice two months prior). He raised his voice this time. The little “Suzie Sorority” behind the desk said “You can’t speak to me like that”. He told her as “long as this place had a nickel of his money, he’d talk to them anyway he wanted” It was at this point, he stated where the entire lobby of customers could hear.

    “I can go anywhere and be treated this badly. You people have made money off me for 25 plus years and this is how you show your thanks..Your “loyalty” to a good customer. He closed his account, took his 5 plus grand in savings, and went where he didn’t have to put up with so many “corporate robots”..

    As far as my recommendation, go with a SIMPLE banks that does what they do WELL. GO with one that has extended hours and lower fees. I bank with Woodforrest. Open 364 days a years (only closed Christmas). Open until atleast 7pm M-F..
    They’ve done what I needed.

    Banks are basically parasites. They create nothing. They’re basic function is to 1)Offer accurate accounting 2)A vault for you money’s safe-keeping. That’s it. For that, they are permitted to loan YOUR money out aka’ for USURY fees. They mearely re-cycle cash.

    The Federal Government, insteading of “bailing out” their major political contributors (Can you say briber?), our elected employees shouldv’e invoked Sherman Anti-Trust and BUSTED up the BOA’s and Wachovia’s and US Banks back down to medium size. Banks ARE NOT an INDUSTRY. They are merely a service.

    SO, the local banks

  122. Just had a frustrating phone discussion with one of my bank’s credit card reps and learned a few things more about Chase that I didn’t like. Found this post and just had to comment.

    1. Chase bank sent me a letter saying they were reducing my credit card limit for some reasonable-sounding reasons, not that I had a bad credit history.

    2. They really wanted me to update my income info – They couldn’t evidently ask that in a letter. (Maybe it’s illegal?)

    3. Then they told me, in effect, that my credit limit wasn’t real anyhow. Wow!

    4. I also have a credit card with USAA who remain scrupulously honest IMHO.

    5. I went to email Chase a comment and guess what, you can’t do it unless you have an online account, or request one.

    Chase just lost another customer for being both deceitful and out-of-touch.

  123. I’ve never had any problems with Navy Federal. Of course, yes, not just anyone can get an account. I’m lucky enough to have gotten in back when I was married to a marine.

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