After several banks announced fees for customers using debit cards, more and more people have started switching over to credit unions. In October 2011 alone, 650,000 bank customers opened new accounts at credit unions. That was a huge increase from the 600,000 customers that switched to credit unions in the entire year of 2010.
September 29, Bank of America announced it would be charging its customers a $5 per month fee to use their debit cards. Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase had also already started testing out debit card fees in certain markets. According to a survey by Research Intelligence Group, one-third of consumers said they would leave their bank if there were fees places on their debit card.
A new social media campaign has started that declares Saturday, November 5 "Bank Transfer Day." It encourages consumers to shift their funds from the for-profit banking institutions in favor of not-for-profit credit unions by the end of the day on November 5. The movement believes this will send a clear message to the banks that consumers won't support their "unethical business practices."
Kristen Christian, the founded of Bank Transfer Day, says that November 5th is merely a deadline goal, but any day is a good day to become a credit union member. Christian is a 27 year-old Los Angeles gallery owner who came up with the Bank Transfer Day idea after becoming sick and tired of getting hit with one bank fee after another, a pain many of us can relate to. In response, many credit unions have extended their hours on Saturday, allowing more time for consumers to come in and learn more about the benefits of a credit union versus a bank. The number one benefit seems to be saving money, as a credit union customer saves an minimum of about $70 per year over bank customers.
Apparently, the banks are already getting the message. An official from Bank of America said that the bank decided to get rid of the debit card fee earlier this week. Other banks have also scrapped their fee pilot programs. When polled on how valued they felt, 42% of Bank of America customers said fair or poor as a response, with 10% saying they were not satisfied at all. Banks generally can afford to lose a good number of small accounts and not suffer. The banks accounts they need to hold on to are the accounts of the 1%. The only problem the banks will face now is how to fill the $8 billion revenue hole that is still open after the debit card fee programs were taken away.
If you are a bank customer, have you considered switching to a credit union? Will you be participating in Bank Transfer Day?