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Want to protest bank bailouts? Move your money, a new campaign urges.

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Tony Avelar/The Christian Science Monitor

(Read caption) Cookie Ferguson (right) opened a new account last March at Community Bank of the Bay in Oakland, Calif. A new campaign is urging depositors angry over bailouts at big banks to switch to local institutions.

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Mad about the bank bailouts? Had enough of huge bonuses and too-big-to-fail apologies?

Here's one way to do something about it.

Take your money out. That's right. Take your checking and savings account out of that big money-center financial institution and move it to a community bank or credit union.

There's even a movement afoot to help consumers make the switch, called Move Your Money, with a well-timed message and a good video (see below).

The website offers search tools so consumers thinking about switching can type in their zip codes to find a credit union or a strong community bank nearby.

Do big banks really care if a few thousand depositors pull out their money? Here's why they do.

Banks' business foundation rests on core deposits, including the savings and checking accounts of consumers and businesses, says Dennis Santiago, CEO of Institutional Risk Analytics (IRA), a bank-rating company in Torrance, Calif.

Although it's too early to tell whether many people will actually move their accounts, the site has been mobbed since it went up in late December.

"The outpouring was tremendous," says Mr. Santiago, who set up the bank search tool and agreed to share the data showing those institutions with the IRA's best ratings. In the first 48 hours, after Arianna Huffington went on CNN to promote the campaign, 80,000 people used the tool to find a local bank.

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Since then, half the country's zip codes have been searched and the tool gets 40,000 to 45,000 page views a day, he says.

Even in 2008, the latest numbers available, credit unions and community banks have seen an increase in depositors. Now "other people are taking up the call to move their money into a commununity bank," says Karen Tyson, senior vice president for communications at the Independent Community Bankers of America. "We can't help but be happy with that."

Amber Taylor of Arlington, Va., is one of those who's actually switching.

"I never thought about what bank I chose before," she says. Then, the financial crisis and the bank bailouts got her thinking. When she saw the Move Your Money video, "that got me all motivated me all over again.... I don't know what huge difference this will make in the big world [but] it's one little thing that I discovered I could do."

She and her husband will move their checking and savings accounts from Wachovia to a small community bank near their home on Saturday. Her boss is moving his business account to a community bank as well.

"What all this does is open the door to a remixing of the deposit base of the country ... using the forces of the market," Mr. Santiago says. "Here's the best thing about it: no tax dollars required."


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