By Jillian Berman
Tens of thousands of Americans joined credit unions on Saturday, as the Bank Transfer Day movement encouraged consumers to move their money out of big banks.
Credit unions raked in 40,000 new members Saturday, the culmination of a social media push known as Bank Transfer Day, according to a survey from the Credit Union National Association. Eighty percent of larger credit unions signed up new members on Saturday, the survey reports, and credit unions overall added $80 million in new savings account funds Saturday.
The weekend capped a surge in new membership that lasted more than a month. At least 650,000 customers joined credit unions between September 29 — the day Bank of America announced it would charge customers $5 to use their debit cards for purchases — and the first week of November, according to a separate CUNA survey. That’s more than joined credit unions in all of 2010.
The Bank Transfer Day push touched a nerve with consumers who were fed up with banks charging fees for once-free services. One-third of customers said in a survey last month that they would leave their bank if it started charging a debit card fee. Many banks ultimately back tracked on proposed charges after witnessing the consumer outcry.
Bank of America dropped its plan to charge the fee earlier this month, after customers, lawmakers and even President Obama derided the bank. Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and other regional banks also scrapped plans to charge debit card fees last month, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Consumers’ decisions to leave the banks boosted credit unions across the country. In Los Angeles, hundreds marched on the city’s financial district Saturday and dozens transferred their money on the spot. Officials from Florida-based Space Coast Credit Union told the Daytona News Journal that the credit union saw a 10 percent boost in phone calls on Saturday compared to a regular weekend.
Nearly 90 percent of credit unions in Maine said they saw an increase in customers between October 1 and Saturday’s Bank Transfer Day deadline, according to the Lewiston Sun Journal. In Missouri, more than 7,100 consumers switched to credit unions in the six weeks leading up to Bank Transfer Day, according to Patch.
But the largely local non-profit credit unions aren’t the only ones seeing a boost from consumer frustration with banks. More customers have also started using financial services at Walmart since Bank of America announced the debit card fee, The New York Times reports.