Day 5: Cut Up Your Big Bank Credit Card
And tell the bank why you want a divorce
If you missed any previous newsletters, you can read them here.
To keep both the oil and the profits gushing, fossil fuel companies need cash to operate—those pipelines aren’t cheap! Since the Paris Agreement of 2015, banks around the world have poured an astounding $3.8 trillion into fossil fuel companies according to Banking on Climate Chaos, an annual report from Rainforest Action Network (RAN).
The biggest losers
Below are the top 10 financiers of the climate crisis, ranked by their investments since the Paris Agreement. RAN released these numbers in its latest report last March. So you know that these dollar figures have only risen since then.
JPMorgan Chase: The worst in the world, five years in a row. $317 billion
Citi: The second-worst in the world. $237 billion
Wells Fargo: World’s top fracking banker. $223 billion
Bank of America: Another big fracking enabler. $198 billion
RBC: Worst in Canada. $160 billion
MUFG: Worst in Asia. $148 billion
Barclays: Worst in Europe. $145 billion
Mizuho: Second worst in Asia. $123 billion
TD: World’s top tar sands banker. $121 billion
BNP Paribas: While PNB Paribas has begun to restrict fossil fuel financing, it has nonetheless provided $121 billion to the fossil fuel industry since the Paris Agreement.
Banks make much more money from credit card customers who carry a balance—as 54 percent of Americans now do—than from customers who pay off their balances every month. But even if you fall into the latter category, the bank charges merchants a small swipe fee for each of your purchases, you may be paying an annual fee for your card or perhaps you very occasionally forget to pay your bill on time, in which case, the bank gouges you with an exorbitant late fee.
Whether the fossil-fuel enablers earn large or small amounts of money from us, they can assume our continued business with them means we accept their practices. If enough of us refuse to do business with them, they lose their social license to operate—society’s acceptance and approval of business as usual. At that point, business as usual must change.
Where to get a new credit card
If you need a new credit card, look for a credit union in your community. (Go here to find a credit union in the US.) Member-owned, not-for-profit credit unions exist to help their members, not big business. Yours may be able to help you manage your investments as well, which we will get to another day.
I swapped out my Chase credit card for one with Meriwest Credit Union when I moved my checking and savings accounts there. I pay nothing for my card, I earn points when I use it and I feel relieved that the swipe fees go to my member-owned bank rather than one hell-bent on growth at any cost.
This might be a good time to reiterate that not everyone can complete every task in this 30-day challenge. If you’re just starting out and have no credit—like both of my 20-something children, for example—or you have a low credit score, you may have had trouble getting approval for the credit card currently in your wallet. If so, you can’t simply cut it up and get a new one.
But if you have a good rating, one of the easiest things you can do for the environment is to close your account and get a credit card with a better bank.
How to close your account
Apply for a new card.
List which recurring bills you charge to your current credit card and move those payments to your new one or move them to your checking account if that works. If you like charts, make one like the example below to stay organized.
Call the number on the back of your big bank’s credit card to break up over the phone (at least it’s not a text!). Explain why you’re closing your account. Say something like, “Hello, I’d like to close my credit card account because [bank name] has provided billions of dollars in financing to the fossil fuel industry during a climate emergency.”
Today’s task will help prepare for a later one—divesting.
Please leave a comment or question below for your fellow participants. How did today’s task go? Did you apply for a new credit card? Can you recommend a green bank?