Dennis Santiago of Institutional Risk Analytics reports that in the first seven days of the joint IRA/Huffington Post/Roosevelt Institute Move Your Money campaign, about 340,000 people searched 16,631 zip codes to find community banks in their neighborhoods that are rated healthy by IRA. Well, maybe not 340,000 people—340,000 searches. I know I searched the 02130 zip code twice yesterday, so that skewed things.
Now I’ve just searched 10024, my current home zip code in Manhattan. Turns out I’d have to travel 60 blocks to deposit my money. No thanks. But in metropolitan Boston, which lost its last really big local bank when Bank of America gobbled up FleetBoston in 2004, there appear to be IRA-approved community banks on every corner. And I’m pretty sure that, once we figure out where we’re going to live up there, we will keep our cash with (and probably get our mortgage from) the likes of Cambridge Trust or Wainwright Bank or People’s Federal Savings Bank. Not because I think the Big Four banks are evil, but because I’m pretty sure we’ll get a better deal and much better service from one of the small guys.
And that’s really what’s useful about the Move Your Money campaign. It may not hurt the big banks in any appreciable way, as Martha White argued at The Big Money on Monday. But so what. It’s providing a lot of free advertising for small banks that are (a) less likely to prove a burden to taxpayers (b) more likely to reinvest your deposits in your community and (3) less likely to nickel and dime you than Citi or Chase or Wells or BofA are. What’s not to like about that?