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5 Reasons to Stay With the Big Banks

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If the Occupy Wall Street protesters have done nothing else, they've inspired millions of Americans to think long and hard about moving their money into local banks and credit unions. After all, it was big, multinational banks that crashed the world economy, tanked the housing market, and made life miserable for the rest of us, right?

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Now, news reports have it that those same big banks are setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars to reward their employees with hefty year-end bonuses. Shouldn't they be punished somehow? What better way than by being abandoned by their customers?



Unfortunately, the situation isn't that simple. Bank customers who protest the behavior of publicly traded, multinational banks by moving their money may feel good about putting their feelings on record. Local banks and credit unions have, by and large, done better than many of their larger, more corporate cousins, and can offer a level of warm, personal service the big banks often don't. But before you start closing your accounts and moving your money, here are five good reasons to stay with your big, bad bank:

Consumer banks aren't at fault. Global, full-service banks are not usually single entities. They're typically massive conglomerates of investment banks, consumer banks, and holding companies. It was the investment banks, and not their consumer bank affiliates, that started playing Russian roulette with subprime mortgages and credit default swaps. Yes, be outraged with JP Morgan Chase (JPM), Goldman Sachs (GS) or Citibank (C) if you will, but recognize that their consumer banking divisions had little or nothing to do with the financial brinksmanship that tanked the world economy or the personal greed that continues to offend average Americans and lawmakers.

Bank service is largely local. While your neighborhood bank or credit union may seem charmingly personal compared to its global competitor, there's frequently little difference in how their local branches operate. A well-run branch of a multi-national bank can be every bit as welcoming and helpful as its competing neighbors. Not only that, you can comfort yourself that the local branch manager, tellers and desk clerks probably aren't enjoying any of those massive bonuses and other perks that investment banks continue to provide to their top producers.

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