It’s hard to even consider the Occupy Movement without remembering Bank Transfer Day, held on November 5, 2011, and designed to encourage consumers who were fed up with fees from traditional banks to come to the ranks who call credit unions their financial homes.
This was an important time in history because it affected so many and it sent out a warning to the country’s super banks that its customers had had enough. It also forced many of those banks to rescind some of those new fees, most notably, the $5 debit card fee put into place by Bank of America.
But it was more than that, too. Bank Transfer Day was a pivotal day as American consumers banded together to also let companies and politicians know they’d had enough of bureaucracy, bank bailouts and even class divisions.
It was the epitome of a grassroots campaign. It began with one woman from Los Angeles who took her frustrations to Facebook. She wanted to know how many of her Facebook friends she could rely on to pull their business from the bank and give it to their local credit unions instead. She made it clear she would be paying off her credit card accounts to her bank and would be applying for new credit cards offered by her credit union. Next thing you know, Bank Transfer Day was born.
Initially, she sent out invitations to “like” her new page to about 500 people. Soon, folks were coming in droves and in a matter of days, she had 60,000 new likes on the page. It was clear a shift was occurring and the banks were watching, too.
Most of the frustrations mirrored other consumers. From placing unjustified freezes on checking and credit card accounts, to calling customer service because a bank website was down, only to be charged a $2 fee to speak to a live customer service rep to the unwillingness of some banks to work with their customers, the air was filled with anticipation. Change was coming.
Credit Cards, Credit Unions
Now that we’re a year into it, we wanted to see how many consumers were still with their credit unions, how many were using credit cards issued by those credit unions and whether or not the level of satisfaction was up by those who’d experienced less than pleasant encounters with their banks, but who were now using credit unions.
Bill Cheney, who is the Credit Union National Association CEO said in an interview yesterday when asked if the efforts were successful a year later,
When you look at the numbers, it’s hard to conclude otherwise. The most recent figures on the number of people belonging to credit unions are those for mid-year 2012. Looking at the one-year ending June 30, 2012 – a period that encompasses the months leading up to and after Bank Transfer Day – we’ve seen the biggest increase in new credit union members in more than a decade – a net of nearly 2.2 million new members.
Here to Stay
He also says he believes these changes are here to stay. First, he says, the average age of those new credit union customers has dropped. They’re more financially savvy, a very much aware of what they feel are predatory fee structures and who also insist on free checking accounts and low APR credit cards. They’re finding all of this at their local credit unions. In fact new estimates suggest consumers have saved $6.3 billion in lower fee structures and better rates on everything from mortgages to credit cards.
The positive changes of the frustrations of one woman are being felt around the nation. Across the country, consumers are saying they’re much happier with their credit unions and feel as though they’re appreciated. Part of this could be because so many credit unions are not oversized like the banks; they’re limited to only those communities they can serve and they’re able to keep costs down.
Still, there were many of those credit unions that realized they had to expand in order to meet the new demand. Many realized that meant more ATMs – especially considering many branches are only managed on a part time basis and often don’t have tellers available. Also, it meant an increase in jobs, too, which is always a good thing.
The question many were asking was would there be a second annual Bank Transfer Day. Many credit union managers had considered the idea briefly, but most came to the realization that it was no longer necessary. One credit union manager said,
While Bank Transfer Day did benefit credit unions by bringing awareness to consumers about the benefits of credit unions, we feel the message is that every day is a good day to switch to a credit union.
Meanwhile, Bank of America and other banks’ efforts to rescind some of the overwhelming fees fell woefully short.