Consumers Tell Big Banks to Go “Fawkes” Themselves

What’s in Your Wallet?

Bank Transfer Day LogoThis is a question Capital One asks consumers in its popular series of television ads promoting their brand of credit cards. However, on Saturday, November 5th, 2011, in honor of Bank Transfer Day, consumers were more likely symbolically saying “Remember Remember the Fifth of November!”

This refrain is the opening line of a popular English rhyme celebrating Guy Fawkes’ Day (a commemoration of the November 5, 1605 “Gunpowder Plot” intended to blow up the English Parliament).  The poem and the date have since evolved into a rallying cry against oppression and government abuse of its citizens.

Likewise, the goal of Bank Transfer Day, which was launched from the laptop of 27-year-old art gallery owner Kristen Christian, is to to encourage consumers to voluntary switch their financial accounts from large commercial banks to non-profit credit unions and community banks.

What inspired Christian to start Bank Transfer Day? In the following HDNet interview with Dan Rather she explains that, in large part, it was Bank of America‘s (recently rescinded) decision to charge its customers $5 a month to use their ATM cards for purchases:

Interestingly, the logo being used for Bank Transfer Day is based on the design of Guy Fawkes masks which are also worn to commemorate the celebration — and have also been used by #OccupyWallStreet participants (though Christian’s efforts are not directly connected to that consumer movement).

The poem and the ideals it embodies were also popularized in the 2006 film “V for Vendetta” which was based on a series of graphic novels of the same name written by by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd. Hugo Weaving portrayed the character who delivered the famous poem in the scene below:

Will Bank Transfer Day be successful? Predictably, banks have not commented in public, but financial institutions must disclose their deposits every three months to comply with federal regulations, so perhaps we will know more about the impact of Bank Transfer Day in February 2012?

Regardless of the actual financial impact, however, Bank Transfer Day represents a positive and productive paradigm of consumer activism.

In many ways it was similarly inspired, though with much more bite than the bark in my December 25, 2008 parody of the bank bailouts, “‘Twas The Night Before Bailout!

In closing, with Bank Transfer Day upon us, perhaps the more relevant question today is “Where’s your wallet?”

Update: According to a March 2, 2012 Los Angeles Times article, “More than 1.3 million Americans opened new credit union accounts last year, up from less than 600,000 in 2010, the National Credit Union Administration reported. That brings the number of credit union members to a record 91.8 million.”