Thousands of Canadians witnessed the first #FossilBanksNoThanks national action day (this past Friday) exposing the ugly truth that Canada’s Big Five banks—RBC, TD, BMO, CIBC, Scotia—are financing the climate crisis. For many, it was a wake-up call. Finding out—for the first time—that the bank which holds your life savings and investments is pumping money into fossil fuels can be quite disheartening. And for others, it was just a case of “enough is enough”. And some, like me, have already decided that it’s time to move your money.
If you’ve decided to move your money, the first step is to tell your bank why you’re leaving by contacting your bank manager using one of the following sample letters:
Step 1 – pick a new financial institution that limits fossil fuel financing and that has a lower carbon footprint—emissions per dollar invested. According to Rainforest Action Network (2008), RBC has a CO² footprint of 112 grams of CO² per dollar invested, while Caisse Desjardins has a CO² footprint of 4 grams per dollar. And VanCity? Less than one gram per dollar.
Step 2 – You’ve chosen a new bank/credit union. Now you need to move your money. Use this checklist as a guide making sure to adapt it to your own circumstances.
- Make a list of all automatic debits and payments going in and out of your account.
- Pay off any credit card debt associated with the old account.
- Open a new account with your new bank.
- If you have direct deposit, fill out the papers directing your employer to reroute your paychecks to your new account. Do the same for any other direct deposit.
- Move enough money into your new account to cover your automatic payments.
- Change your automatic payments to your new account.
- Check for any outstanding checks or other debits scheduled to come out of your old account.
- Leave enough money in your old account to cover any cheques that haven’t cleared or automatic payments that haven’t been made to avoid any fees.
- Once you’re certain all direct deposits and automatic payments are coming into and going out of your new account, transfer the remaining funds from your old account into your new account. You can do this electronically or by writing yourself a cheque.
- Once the transfer clears your new account, close the old account. Get written confirmation that the account has been closed. Source: Stop the Money Pipeline – Move Your Money.
Step 3 – There are many ways to tell your old bank that it’s time to clean up their act. Sending them a message that they’re losing your business because of their connection to fossil fuels is a powerful lever for making them change.
Step 4 – Get Involved! Take Action! Join a movement to clean up the banking sector!
There are some banks (including online banks) and many credit unions that are fossil-free and socially responsible. Pick one that is not financing climate destruction and that matches your needs and your values.
Tim Nash, the Sustainable Economist, provides several reasons why credit unions may be a better choice.
- They are not driven by profit, instead their goal is to maximize member satisfaction.
- Their governance is more democratic with the one-member-one-vote rule, and not the one-share-equals-one-vote rule.
- Money often stays in the community.
- They offer many of the same services as traditional banks.
In addition, Matt Price wrote in The Tyee that credit unions are alternatives to the big banks for the climate-conscious Canadian or institution.
Your best choice may be a large credit union such as:
For a comprehensive list, click on: Credit Unions and Caisse Populaires across Canada:
Wikipedia lists Canadian banks both large and small. The big five banks are heavily invested in fossil fuels whereas some smaller banks have taken steps to be more environmentally responsible.
RBC Customer service: 1 (800) 769-2511
TD Customer service: 1 (800) 222-3456
Scotiabank Customer service: 1 (800) 472-6842
BMO Customer service: 1 (800) 225-5266
CIBC Customer service: 1 (800) 465-2422