When you have money at a bank, in a savings or checking account, they use that money for their own loans and investments, while ensuring that you can withdraw the amount listed as your balance if need be. But have you ever investigated what kinds of investments your bank is using your money for?
This is a great article on the reasons that you should move your money out of big banks and into a local bank or credit union, preferably one that contributes back to the community or is owned and run by minority groups. The article is UK-centric, but the general arguments are applicable in the US as well.
Your banking choice as an individual matters. When you choose to buy fair-trade coffee, your money gets used better once. But when you have money in a bank account, that money gets invested by the bank again and again. And it’s getting invested in lots things that go against social justice, from dictatorships to aggressive extraction of fossil fuels. In 2006 Platform’s report The Oil and Gas Bank calculated that RBS’ ‘embedded’ emissions were greater than the emissions of Scotland itself! Using one less plastic bag on my shopping trip has suddenly been put in perspective.