Switching to a Credit Union: Oh My God I Should Have Done This Years Ago. Seriously (#NoDAPL)

Trump will try to make the Dakota Access Pipeline a reality with his authoritarian machinations. This will put the Standing Rock Sioux and activists involved in incredible danger over the next few months, so it’s time to implement something I’ve been mulling over for months – closing my account with the Royal Bank of Canada, one of the banks responsible for financing the pipeline.

Take that, Capitalism! In around a month’s time, my measly income will no longer be yours to profit from.pennies

Actual photo of my net worth

I was really nervous, though, because I am both avoidant and finances-phobic. So I thought I would use this opportunity to try and get more acquainted with my own finances, and to learn more about banks and my role in larger financial institutions while I was at it.

The DeFund DAPL website lists banks that are funding the groups responsible for the pipeline. In their list of alternative banks I found a Credit Union that was walking distance from my home in Oakville, Meridian Credit Union. Cause, you know, I can’t drive and I live in my parents’ basement.

This article, “7 Easy Steps to Switch Banks without Worry”, led me through the rest of the process, without entirely delivering on its promise of “without worry”. I would have to set up my new bank account before closing the RBC one, and then switch over auto-payments (like my phone bill) to the new account somehow.

That stuff about switching automatic whatever sounded hard, so I ignored it and focused on the fun part: opening a new bank account!

What you need to open an account:

  • 2 pieces of ID (Drivers’ license, Passport, and Credit Card)
  • Social Insurance Number
  • A sense of adventure and/or urgency that will combat your intrinsic fear and apathy
  • The ability to not say yes, “you or any member of your family are working for a foreign government or military.” (But don’t worry: there are alternative ways for Russian spies to express solidarity with Standing Rock.)

Filled with righteous resolve and swaddled against the bitter cold, I marched up to the doors of Meridian Credit Union. Nicole, the banker, got me set up and brought me coffee, sealing the deal: as the age-old proverb says, give me caffeine, and I am yours.

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The blessed coffee feat. my notes

As I nursed my beverage, Nicole explained Credit Unions, my own accounts, and the process as a whole. She explained that rather than having (and being beholden to) shareholders, Meridian and other credit unions like it are owned by those who have member shares – in other words, anyone with an account. For $1, I can own a piece of Meridian, attend the Meridian AGM in April to have a say in the direction the bank takes, and help choose Meridian’s future leadership.

Hell yeah! This is exactly what I am looking for; the ability to not have what’s going on be shrouded in shell corporations and layers of secrecy, and to have the ability to impact the larger institution.

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Artists’ rendition of me attending the Meridian AGM

On another note, Meridian seems like a genuinely pleasant enterprise to be a part of. Nicole talked up the local events and charitable donations, adding that most Meridian investment is done at the branch level, meaning it’s logistically impossible for Meridian to invest in giant multi-national Evil Enterprises (my words, not hers).

Nicole and I chose a chequing account and a high-interest savings account, with no fees and a much higher interest rate than I had at RBC. Higher interest is good, for those with a similar level of financial literacy as me. In fact, credit unions typically offer interest rates higher than those at the “Big 5”. And despite being smaller than RBC, Meridian’s website is significantly nicer, with budget calculators and other handy things.

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A breath of fresh air after RBC’s Kafka-esque website, I s2g

As she was finalizing my accounts, Nicole offered me a chance to look at my credit score. Apparently this is something the Big 5 can’t do, but Nicole was able to show me what they saw when they looked me up. You can do it yourself through Equifax; Nicole recommended it be done once a year.

Now this has been a long-standing paranoia of mine – checking my credit rating only to discover that someone has taken out 15 credit cards under my name and that my credit score is in like, idek, the NEGATIVE numbers. This is a product of my past reaction to my finances: if I don’t look at them, they can’t be in bad shape. But I’m trying to not be avoidant, in my relationship to social justice as well as my finances.

So I put on my brave face and Nicole showed me my ‘Beacon’ and BNI, which are indicators of my credit health and likelihood to declare bankruptcy, respectively. And it turns out I actually have really healthy scores!

There are is no such thing as a negative credit rating, fyi. Just googled it.

So not only did my experience opening an account lead to increased peace of mind on my part and increased financial literacy, it was a straightforward and pleasantly caffeinated experience. I left feeling really confident that I don’t need to bank with RBC or any other the other big banks to have a good experience or healthy bank account – if anything, Meridian’s service was better and their products more appropriate for a student like me. I departed into the biting winter cold with a heart warmed by my own righteousness and newfound financial literacy.

Next up: Part 2, I roll up to the Royal Bank of Canada to close my accounts…

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Thanks Nicole 😇

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5 Things to do if you’re dumped right after the election

1. Sigh constantly and have your coworkers guess the reason

“Okay, a hint: was I thinking of all the good times we shared, or of Mike Pence’s history of supporting discriminatory and dangerous anti-LGBT policies?”

2. Come up with creative locations to cry; after all, you’re crying several times per day!

In public, sneaking a quickie behind your parents’ backs, and turning to a customer eyes brimming with tears of sadness and regret are all valid options.

3. Think about objects in your home that are older or newer than your deceased relationship/new president-elect, and will never know the horrors of consciousness

“This stapler has outlived my romance. Our toilets were re-done before we even suspected Clinton would be beaten. Neither will ever know the pain of the prison-industrial complex under a Trump presidency or the horror of loss”

4. Cry harder from the guilt of not caring enough about your defunct relationship or the election outcome, alternately

3pm: “oh my god i’m obsessing about my ex-partner’s idiocy when there’s actual post-election violence going down i’m a terrible person”

4pm: “now i’m dishonouring the memory of our love by fixating on impending geopolitical crisis when i should be reliving all the good times”

5. Wallow in the fact that misery cannot be escaped and abandon all hope of self-care

Hey, subjecting yourself to endless self-hating media coverage of DJT takes your mind off wondering “where did we go wrong?”

Not So Fast, Canada

It’s the hangover after the night of blackout debaucheries that was the American election. And every Canadian on my newsfeed is, while resisting the urge to vomit, expressing relief that we live in Canada. The world is also remembering Canada and our peaceful legacy; The Canadian immigration website is reported to have crashed from overwhelming traffic, reinforcing a narrative that’s been passed around this election cycle–that Canada is better than America.

And it is! We have all the trappings of American culture with none of the shittiness. We’re America lite; America, but nicer. But it’s not particularly hard to be nicer than America right now.

Yes, we haven’t elected an incompetent man who calls Mexicans “rapists”. But that’s only because we have a couple of things Americans seem to be lacking; universal healthcare, a reasonable minimum wage, gun regulations, and more.

The fact is, it’s easy to vote for the status quo when the status quo is a little less shitty, and that’s exactly what we do here in Canada. We twiddled our thumbs for 9 years while Stephen Harper eroded much of our peacekeeping, environmentalist identity, all because he didn’t explicitly want to deport all Muslim people. And for all that we have over America, there are a number of ways in which we bear an uncomfortable resemblance to our southern neighbours.

Here’s an abbreviated list of some of the things we share with America:

Racist policing practices. Our own Toronto police are best known for their racist carding practices, and we’ve had our share of police shootings.

Our own, unique history of genocide against Indigenous people. Here’s a link to the atrocities committed in residential schools. And Indigenous people in Canada enjoy a lowered standard of living and disgustingly high suicide rates to this day.

Environmental destruction. The Harper years were hard for this one, with Canada sliding pretty far down the list of nations for protecting the environment. And we have the shame of the Alberta Tar Sands to live down, too.

And thanks to the election, we’re likely to enjoy some of the same violence against people of colour inspired by Donald Trump‘s rhetoric. There are Trump supporters here, too. Even if many of us reject his ideology of hatred and violence, nationalism won’t protect us or the most vulnerable members of our society.

We have some housework of our own to do here in Canada: cause if you’re thinking this whole thing wouldn’t have happened to us in America’s position, you’re not learning. Nobody expects the bloviating bigot, and we would do well to try and learn from what we’ve seen in the U.S. this election season.

But at least we have Trudeau.