Remember, Remember, the 5th of... May?

The same people who urged U.K. residents to "Move Your Money" in the month of March are now encouraging people to take action on the day of their banks' annual general meeting. In theory, it's capitalism at its best; by choosing where and how they bank, customers have the power to change the industry.

Sound familiar?

Remember, remember, the 5th of November
It was less than six months ago that a social media campaign in the United States urged customers to do the same thing.

Outraged by the fees that JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) , Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) , and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) were looking at charging customers, a social media movement declared Nov. 5 the day on which all customers should switch to a local bank or credit union. Dubbed Bank Transfer Day, it was supposed to sound the death knell for the big banking industry.

The day arrived with fanfare; credit unions offered special promotions, protesters participated with mixed results throughout the country, and the Credit Union National Association reported high levels of participation among its members. The numbers eventually were found to have been exaggerated, with accounting or human error misrepresenting the actual number of new customers versus existing customers with new accounts.

When the smoke cleared and the final count came in, an estimated 5.6 million people changed banks in the 90 days leading up to Bank Transfer Day. Only 11% credited Bank Transfer Day, while 26% cited excessive bank fees and poor customer service as the reason. During the quarterly earnings call following the event, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan admitted that account closures were up by approximately 20%.

More likely to leave your spouse than your bank
And now it's the U.K.'s turn.

An op-ed in the Guardian on the Move Your Money movement evoked the cheeky adage that people are more likely to leave their marriages than leave their banks. And it's true that the idea of building the banking system to suit its customers is a new philosophy in the U.K., which traditionally has some of the lowest switching rates in all of Europe.

But it appears that frustration with the banking system is far greater than that with the institution of marriage, because Move Your Money has set out a list of complaints.

The list includes taxpayer bailouts that didn't change the culture, reduced lending to small- and medium-sized businesses, large executive bonuses, unethical investments, and unfair tax laws -- all of which are issues that we are currently debating on this side of the pond.

With a toolkit, a handy e-book, and partnerships throughout the U.K., the campaign reported 1,000 people had pledged to change banks, and small banks did indeed report an increase in new accounts. Now that the initial Move Your Money push has passed, the campaign is continuing by urging folks who haven't already changed banks to do so on the day of their banks' annual general meeting.

Global movement
While the U.K. movement is small, and like Bank Transfer Day in the U.S. it is unlikely to impart real change in the global financial system, it is perhaps likely to have the same complementary outcome. Informed customers are empowered customers. As I wrote about Bank Transfer Day, opting out of the big bank system might not affect it much. And that's OK. The savings that customers may see as a result of switching to a small bank may be minuscule. And that's also OK. These protests are part of a swelling tide of customers who simply refuse to play. While the campaigns may take different names and have different homes, they are the same.

And they are far from the last ones.

Have you transferred your banking as a result of an online campaign? Staying where you are? Tell me about it below.

Molly McCluskey doesn't own share in any of the companies mentioned. Follow her finance and travel tweets @MollyEMcCluskey.

Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo, and has created a covered strangle position in Wells Fargo. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (4)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2012, at 12:39 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    I switched to a credit union as part of Bank Transfer Day. I felt complicit in the damage the banks were doing to our society and it is a refreshing and enjoyable feeling to know that my money is less involved in the global capitalist structure.

    I don't foresee ever going back to a commercial banking institution.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2012, at 2:21 PM, seattle1115 wrote:

    I also moved my business to a credit union shortly before Bank Transfer Day, not so much to make a political or moral statement (although it's a statement I can endorse), but mostly because I was getting tired of paying outrageous fees for godawful service. Now I get outstanding service for very low fees. It makes me wonder why I didn't get around to making the change much earlier.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2012, at 8:53 PM, PT07 wrote:

    In the last 20 years have have never paid any regular monthly bank fees.

    I would say in the last 20 years, I would not have paid more than $10.00 worth of banks fees on my accounts.

    Why?

    There are always alternatives and with the internet at your finger tips, its even easier.

    As soon as I am aware my account will have fee's added, I move.

    Don't pay these rip off fees to banks, and it doesn't take a "Bank Transfer Day" to encourage me to do it.

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2012, at 5:29 PM, nickjob wrote:

    jpm not only charges high fees, they might steal your savings as they did with mf global customers. who would want to invest in a thief?

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2012, at 11:05 AM, DavidDarcy wrote:

    I wanted out of Shittibank for half the 20 years I was abused by them. Finally made a move - to Scottrade. So far they seem too good to be true.

    I wanted to go back to a credit union but none would have me because I'm self employed (read: not a member of a trade union). When did that happen? I was a member of The Artists Community Federal Credit Union over 20 yrs ago, they since evaporated, but at the time they were the only financial institution that would acknowledge my existence.

    Scottrade seem to have no fees except for the $7 trade cost, free ATM use, no minium balance requirments, no maintenace charges, and they also pay Shitti's fee for the transfer of my accounts.

    BTW The guy flying the helicopter in the Scottrade ad is the founder - I like that. They used to be Scotsdale.

    Is there something I don't know? Scottrade appear squeaky clean as far as corporate sleaze goes.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2012, at 4:39 AM, XMFAlaska wrote:

    Folks, thanks for all your great comments. I am also a member of two credit unions, and have been very happy with the service and rates.

    PT07: Glad you've made the big banking system work for you.

    NickJob: Agreed. Have you been following our coverage of MF Global? It just seem to get more and more disheartening as things progress.

    David, I looked into credit unions on your behalf. State Department Federal Credit Union welcomes everybody, regardless of union status. Their website is https://www.sdfcu.org/. While their locations are primarily in the DC/VA area, their online and remote services are excellent.

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