Money Matters

For the last five months I have been working to make sustainable anti-racism changes in my life. Having read a lot of internet lists about actions to take, one item that stood out was banking locally and with Black-owned banks.

Here was something I could do to put my financial power to good use, and once I set it up, the benefit would continue automatically. But I wasn’t sure what it would actually take to do it.

At 18, I opened a bank account at the big bank my parents used because my mom told me I should. For the next 15 years, I thought about the money going in and out of my accounts but not about the accounts themselves. What was my money doing when I wasn’t spending it?

Turns out where you bank matters for more than just you.

Banking locally and at Black-owned banks means:

  • Local businesses and neighbors receive loans, so you support your community and benefit directly from the local restaurants, stores, and service organizations funded through community banks.
  • As Community Development Financial Institutions, many local and Black-owned banks provide revitalization investments for low to moderate income communities.
  •  Local and Black-owned banks offer additional services like financial literacy courses or second chance accounts for those denied in the past.

So, here’s how I made my money matter more by switching banks.

  1. I called my mom and got her thoughts because banking and money still intimidate me. She was excited about my decision and totally supportive.
  2. I searched online for locally-owned banks in Williamsburg, VA and looked up their interest rates, policies, and initiatives. I did the same with Black-owned banks.
  3. I called my mom again and then my best friend, who banks locally. After sharing my bank selections, they double-checked my research and encouraged me.
  4. I looked up my big bank’s policies on closing accounts to make sure there weren’t any fees or terms I needed to navigate—there weren’t.
  5. I moved my money.

*And here’s where COVID-19 made a difference*

If we weren’t living in pandemic conditions, I would have gone into my local bank and said “I want to open an account.”  Then I would have filled out the paperwork with a banker. I would have gone to the big bank and said “Give me my money,” which they would’ve provided as a cashier’s check I could directly deposit in my new local account.

But COVID-19 times meant instead I had to make money moves digitally.

The local bank I chose had a simple step-by-step online process for opening an account, and I chatted online and over the phone with the same banker for the two questions I had. Next I made a phone call to my big bank, sat through a wait time, and initiated closing my account. I started by closing one account and e-transferring that money to my local account. This allowed me time to make sure any recurring payments and deposits were now routed through my local account. Then I could use e-transfers and a mailed cashier’s check to close the other accounts. I repeated that process for moving money into my new account with a Black-owned bank.

That was it.

Once I decided where I wanted my money to go, it was as simple as a few forms and a few phone calls: a lot easier than I worried it would be when I started the process. Now not only do I get a better rate, I know that my money is making a difference when I am spending it and when I am saving it. And that matters.

Categories: Alumni Blogs, Community Engagement & Service, Diversity, Faculty & Staff Blogs

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