Area credit unions already are benefitting from Bank Transfer Day, which is set for Saturday.
“We’re getting lots of stories from credit unions seeing more than the usual increases in membership, upticks on website counts,” said Missouri Credit Union Association President and CEO Mike Beall. “Transfer Day is more like Transfer Month."
Credit Union National Association officials said 650,000 new members have joined, bringing $4.5 billion to credit unions since the Bank Transfer Day movement started, Beall said.
Those numbers are above what is considered normal for credit unions, he added.
Bank Transfer Day gained ground after Bank of America announced it would begin charging a $5 monthly fee for its debit card. Los Angeles gallery owner Kristen Christian said she was outraged over bank fees and began the transfer movement on Facebook. The page had more than 37,800 “likes” as of Thursday.
Bank of America since announced it would not charge the fee, but the Occupy Wall Street movement took up Bank Transfer Day as a rallying cry. The Bank Transfer Day Facebook site states there is no connection between Bank Transfer Day and the Occupy movement, but welcomes their support.
What’s the difference?
Beall said people have gotten the concept that credit unions offer an alternative to banks, with smaller fees and better interest rates on accounts and loans.
“A bank has shareholders who expect up to a 20 percent return on their investment, so the banks charge higher fees and higher interest rates to make that profit,” Beall said. “We cut out the middle man.”
Beall outlined other differences:
- Credit unions are owned by customers, those with checking and savings accounts, who own shares in the institution.
- Rather than pay out dividends, credit unions charge lower fees or interest on loans, or award more interest on accounts.
- Credit unions also are smaller and more community-oriented.
“Credit unions offer all the services offered by banks: checking and savings accounts, home and car loans, credit and debit cards, ATM services,” Beall said. “Anything a bank can do, a credit union can do.”
Melissa Rakers, branch manager for , said that she's noticed a big uptick in customers in the past month from former and customers.
"We have a Regions Bank across the street, and we have seen an increase in customers," she said.
Rakers said credit unions offer similar services to banks, including business checking accounts as well as personal.
Who can join?
Some credit unions are based on businesses or employee groups. Others have geographic charters that allow them to serve customers within their region.
“A lot of credit unions have changed their charters to geographical charters, so that anyone who lives in a certain area can join the credit union," Beall explained.
One example is Vantage Credit Union, formerly the Educational Employees Credit Union. Membership used to be available only to those who worked in education. Several years ago, the credit union changed to a geographic charter and switched its name to Vantage.
“In the St. Louis metro area especially, virtually 100 percent of the population is able to join a credit union,” Beall said.
Rakers said their credit union used to primarily serve Postal Service employees, but has expanded to zip codes as well as family members of their current customers.
*Editor Aja J. Junior contributed to this article.