Guest blog by Jim Thompson, Ashoka Fellow, sharing his story about switching to a greener credit card and credit union and founding THIS! Is What We Did.

It was a moment of truth. In 2019 I was inspired by Bill McKibben’s call to organize protests at more than 1,000 climate-bad bank branches on Earth Day 2020. I was organizing demonstrations outside Wells Fargo branches (and some inside) to let people know that the bank was financing the destruction of the planet. We intended to increase the number of branches visited over a few weeks to be able to visit 36 branches on Earth Day.

We handed out flyers encouraging people to move their money from Wells Fargo. My wife, Sandra, said to me, “Jim, this seems a little hypocritical since we still have our money in Wells Fargo.”

Okay, right. We had to move our money! We discovered that others shared our desire and, like us, just hadn’t gotten around to doing it. We started a “cohort” program of people who wanted to act together to move their money from climate-bad banks.

We developed a weekly Move-Your-Money Zoom session that provided people with the information they needed to get a new credit card and/or checking account. We found that it became an immediate community in which we all enjoyed doing something together that wasn’t so much fun alone. [In 2023, we have re-launched this cohort series, sign-up here.]

The cohort provided support to each of us, and people made commitments, such as, “by next week I will have done _______.” These public commitments made it much more likely that we followed through on them.

Of course, this came back to bite me. One morning I was working to figure out how to get into my checking account so I could change my paycheck direct-deposit away from Wells Fargo. I was confronted with two security questions: 1) Where did you meet your spouse? 2) Who was your favorite teacher? I confidently typed 1) St. Paul, MN and 2) Polly Ames.

I was told that I could not access my account because those were incorrect answers!

This is the point at which I normally would have said, “I don’t have time for this now. I’ll come back to it later.” And likely would not have returned to it. But I kept at it for 45 more minutes until I got it squared away.

Why did I keep at it? Because our cohort was meeting at noon and I had told people last week that I would have this done by today. Everyone cheered my persistence, which felt great!

We developed tools to help make the change: an assessment of services desired from a new bank; a sheet with links to find climate-friendly credit unions and banks; a tracking sheet of actions; sample letters to the CEOs of the four worst climate-bad banks (Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo and Bank of America), and to the local branch manager.

But perhaps the most valuable thing we offered was a supportive group of people to do this with.

Our personal results were great. We began using a checking account at the Stanford Federal Credit Union (SFCU), which we had access to from my time as a Stanford business student, and which we had previously ignored. We also took out checking and money market accounts at Self Help Federal Credit Union, which we liked because it is so invested in empowering marginalized communities. We now have our regular checking and savings with Self Help and we keep the funds we intend to donate in our Stanford account. We also do our banking for THIS! Is What We Did with SFCU and again, have had good results. We’ve had no problems with ATM access since many credit unions have connected ATMs and we had one right outside the grocery store where we usually shop.

We had our Visa credit card with Chase for 40 or more years. Fortunately, Stanford Federal Credit union also had a Visa credit card, which we got. We switched from getting frequent flier miles to getting cash-back because we don’t intend to fly much any more, since air travel is such a large contributor to climate change. We also don’t intend to make any big purchases (like a home mortgage) in the near future, so we weren‘t concerned if our credit rating took a temporary hit. Nonetheless, our credit rating remained very high.

We’ve had good service and no glitches from our new accounts or new credit card. And we feel so much “cleaner,” in a profound sense, to not be supporting the banks that finance the fossil fuel industry that is destroying humanity’s future on this planet.

The mission of THIS! Is What We Did is to help grow an intergenerational movement strong enough to break the power of the fossil fuel industry and stimulate the effective, drastic action needed to spur climate justice and give future generations a chance for a decent life through:

1. a powerful educational experience
2. a welcoming community
3. easy-access on-ramps to effective action

We found that supposedly easy access actions (like moving your money) can involve multiple steps, and how great it was to do them with a supportive community.

I remember the feeling of satisfaction Sandra and I got from taking this action. It felt so great (and still does)! One person who moved her money posted a photo of herself cutting up her bank card with the caption, “I feel so much integrity after moving my money.” It feels good to align our money with our values!

Last spring, Bill McKibben and THIRD ACT asked people to wait to drop their climate-bad banks until we could do it together to have maximal impact. So, now is the time – as we lead-up to the 3.21.23 National Day of Action to Stop Dirty Banks – to get out of climate-bad banks all together. This is the most effective way we can have collective impact, but for many people, the transition from old to new accounts takes time, energy and support. Third Act and THIS! have many resources to help you find better banks and credit cards (see below).

THIS! is here to help you prepare for the big moment where you’ll get to cut up those credit and debit cards. We stand ready to provide a step-by-step process to support people looking to move their money. Feel free to get in touch and sign-up for a cohort. Third Act and THIS! look forward to sharing many more happy “bank switching” stories…..

A quick note: The volunteers and staff at THIS! and Third Act are not financial advisors and we are legally prohibited from giving financial advice. All resources and discussions are for educational purposes only; all financial decisions are your own. You also will not be asked to share your financial situation with others in the cohort.


About the author:

Head shot of Jim Thompson

Jim Thompson (he, him) (Jim “AT” )

Jim is the founder of THIS! Is What We Did

THIS! helps people move their money from climate-bad banks (especially Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo & Bank of America) financing the destruction of the planet’s ability to support humanity. THIS! provides training in Effective Climate Conversations and supports people who are committed to helping grow a large and diverse movement. 

Jim founded Positive Coaching Alliance, a national movement to transform youth sports. He co-founded Recovery Café San José, a healing community for individuals traumatized by homelessness, mental illness and drug abuse. He has written nine books including Positive Coaching and Elevating Your Game.   

Jim received an MBA from Stanford where he was Director of the Public Management Program, named as the nation’s top non-profit business management program. 

Jim is an Ashoka Fellow. He has taught coaching, leadership, and sport & spiritually in Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program and teaches an online spiritual poetry class.


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