Huge Surge in Credit Union Enrollment Will Likely Spur More to Switch

The Credit Union National Association announced Thursday that more than 650,000 people have enrolled in credit unions since Sept. 29, the day Bank of America announced it would be charging a $5 monthly fee to be able to utilize debit cards on purchases. Bank of America has since rescinded the decision, but for many, that’s too little, too late.

The 650,000 additional credit union members are close to the entire new customer enrollment for 2010. The slow-bleed approach many banks were using to cull every extra cent they could from their customers had driven many away from banks previously. There were some consumers who thought about switching but stayed with banks out of the perception of convenience, or not just wanting to take the time to switch everything over. The sheer audacity of the Bank of America move shoved clients who might have contemplated leaving right out the door.

I left Bank of America over their role in the financial crisis

I was with Seafirst Bank out of Seattle since the mid ’90s, and remained with Bank of America when they bought out Seafirst. It’s been over two years since I ended my banking relationship with them. My wife stayed a little longer, but when they told her they would be charging a fee on her checking account, she closed that one as well. We still have a credit card affiliated with that bank, but due to the debit card action, we decided to close my wife’s credit card in solidarity with others who are fed up.

We still have an account with Key Bank, and will likely keep it for business purposes. They are regional and not nearly as culpable in the financial debacles surrounding the mortgage market. As long as they don’t charge us any fees, we won’t leave.

We have our main checking account with Rivermark Credit Union, as well as two auto loans at very favorable interest rates. We love the service we get, and the fact that credit unions operate as non-profits, not money-making machines. We still have credit cards tied to mileage reward plans through banks, but we only use them for the miles. We never carry a balance and pay no interest. We refuse to give dollars to a faceless financial institution out to milk us.

Credit unions are easy to join, and the money stays local

The fact that credit unions operate with the intent of reinvesting in their local communities makes them more attractive than a bank sucking profits out of every region they are in. I don’t understand why anyone in the 99 percent would choose a bank for their primary business over a credit union. They are incredibly easy to join. Some are still locked to a specific trade or situation, but most will let you join on very loose criteria. Living and/or working in their service area is enough to join Rivermark.

If you haven’t made the switch, or if you are just looking to open your first account, make it a credit union and leave the banks to themselves. To help you make the choice, November 5 has been declared “Bank Transfer Day.”

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