People are getting fed up with the big banks, and credit unions are having the last laugh.
A couple weeks ago, we told you about Bank Transfer Day, a grassroots Facebook effort urging people to shift their funds to credit unions before November 5th in order to stick it to the bigger banks. It seems like it's actually happening. Local news outlets across the country have been reporting huge rises in applications to the nonprofit institutions. Some credit unions are seeing a 30 percent uptick; others have doubled their membership. In September, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions reported a 350 percent increase in web traffic to its online credit union locator. And more than a handful of the customers are volunteering their reason: They're pissed off at the big banks.
Credit unions aren't letting the moment pass them by, running provocative ad campaigns to attract customers. St. Paul, Minn.-based Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union ramped up its "Ditch Your Bank" campaign. Co-op Services launched the "Shred My Card" promotion, which gives the new convert $105 for eviscerating her old debit card in favor of a direct deposit account there. Lafayette Federal Credit Union in Kensington, Md. has placed ads in local papers with a list of incentives and a picture of a twentysomething cutting up a debit card. The caption? “$#%&’n mad? You should be!”
Other campaigns like Move Your Money have been around for a while, but the anger toward the big institutions got a serious boost after Bank of America announced their $60 annual fee just to use their debit card. And credit unions aren't the only ones profiting—other biggies like Chase and Citibank have sent letters to their customers assuring them they won't impose a similar expense. Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan put their plans for a $3 fee on hold. Bank of America eventually bowed to customer outrage and canceled plans for its fee. But let's remember that credit unions were fee-free—and profit-free—from the get-go.
Updated to reflect Bank of America's decision to cancel the $60 annual debit card fee.