The Bankrate promise
At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .
With the emergence of online banking, many consumers are no longer confined by geography when choosing a bank.
Other factors become much more important: the convenience and features of a bank’s mobile app, the best CD rates offered by a credit union or sticking with your hometown bank when you take a job five states away.
Another significant factor you may consider is finding an institution that aligns with your values, faith or the causes that are important to you.
Here are some options for consumers seeking banks that match their values.
Banking for political values
Banks lend money to various borrowers to make profit, and who and where they choose to invest in may have political implications. For example, a report co-authored by several environmentally conscious nonprofit organizations (including Reclaim Finance, Rainforest Action Network and BankTrack) found that JPMorgan Chase invested the most amount of money in fossil fuels out of all banks globally, so consumers opposed to fossil fuel processing may prefer to deposit their money elsewhere.
A helpful resource for finding banks that align with your political values is Mighty Deposits, a bank comparison site that breaks down public data about how banks use their money and who owns them. You can search for a specific bank to see the breakdown of its investments, or filter banks based on certain criteria, such as those that invest in low-income communities.
Open Secrets, a nonprofit research organization, also provides a useful visual analysis of the political contributions of people and political action committees associated with commercial banks and how much of these contributions go to different political parties. For example, its data shows that Amalgamated Bank is affiliated with some of the top contributors to Democrats and liberals, while Woodforest National Bank is affiliated with some of the top contributors to Republicans and conservatives.
Amalgamated Bank could be a good option for those with progressive political leanings. Based in New York, it traditionally served labor union workers, and has expanded over time to be a proponent of socially responsible causes.
The bank offers a Give-Back Savings account that pays a competitive rate, and it matches half of the interest a customer earns and donates it to a participating organization of the customer’s choice. The account requires a $100 minimum opening deposit and charges no monthly fee. Amalgamated also offers an interest-bearing checking account, the Give-Back Checking account, with a similar donation deal.
For conservatives looking to deposit their money in a bank affiliated with conservative contributors, several of the top banks listed by Open Secrets as affiliated with conservatives and Republican contributors include Woodforest National Bank, First Premier Bank and Arvest Bank Group.
There are several financial institutions with religious affiliations across the U.S., including the AdelFi credit union, a Christian-based Institution in Brea, California. Credit unions typically have a membership requirement, and at AdelFi it is pretty straight-forward: Anyone who agrees with its statement of faith can join.
At its core, AdelFi was designed to serve the financial needs of Americans engaged in missionary work around the world, letting them focus on the “full-time work of ministry,” says president and CEO Abel Pomar.
The credit union gives 10 percent of its profits to missionaries and other Christian-based efforts.
There are various institutions oriented around other faiths, too. For instance, University Bank in Ann Arbor, Michigan, operates University Islamic Financial, a lender that offers sharia-adherent products, including mortgages that are built around the Islamic prohibition against charging interest.
Meanwhile, Kosher Financial Institute provides a directory of banks and lending institutions that comply with Jewish law.
Environmentally friendly banking
If environmental impact is a top concern in your consumption habits, finding a bank or credit union that actively aims to be green is a good place to start.
One way to find a sustainable and environmentally-friendly bank is through the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV). GABV members are required to meet certain criteria and share practices that put the environment and community first. Some U.S. members of GABV include Amalgamated Bank, Civic Federal Credit Union and Southern Bancorp.
First Green Bank in Orlando is so green that one of its branches has a toilet that runs on rainwater.
Its commitment to green initiatives shows up largely in its lending. For instance, the bank offers discounted interest rates for home projects that meet green building criteria for LEED certification. It also has a program for solar panels.
Limelight Bank is another eco-friendly bank that could be a good option for those who want to invest some money in certificates of deposit (CDs). The bank is paperless and only offers CDs, but its rates are some of the highest on the market and the deposits help the bank fund solar energy initiatives.
Socially responsible investing
Socially responsible investing (SRI) is an investment strategy that aims to balance financial returns and social good.
There are several variations of SRI investing. Some people really care about good governance, and they want to know that they are investing in companies that care about accountability and transparency. Others may want to invest in companies that don’t rely on sweatshop labor.
SRI strategies are hot in robo-advising, especially as they try to court millennials. For instance, Morgan Stanley includes several socially responsible themes in its Morgan Stanley Access portfolio options, including a climate action theme and global frontier theme.
The company’s research has found that socially responsible investing is becoming more mainstream, with the percentage of millennials interested in SRI increasing from 84 percent in 2015 to 95 percent in 2019. As of 2021, it has found that 52 percent of the general population partake in at least one sustainable investing activity.
While companies like Morgan Stanley and Betterment make SRI an option, it is the bread and butter for robo firms like EarthFolio, the robo platform from Blue Marble Investments.
The case for staying local
Trying to align your values with your bank may not necessarily involve switching institutions, especially if supporting your local community is important to you.
Many banks give back to their communities in some way. The Bank of North Dakota is a great example of a local bank that proactively works to address the state’s needs. It gives up much of its profits to the state and to mission-driven loan programs, with the goal of driving economic development and infrastructure projects in North Dakota. For example, the Bank of North Dakota provided recovery funding during the 2011 floods in Minot and Bismarck, North Dakota.
If you bank locally, see what initiatives your bank is invested in; it might very well line up with your values.
— Robert Barba wrote a previous version of this story.