Increased Bank Fees Leading to Swell in Credit Union Membership Inquiries

Residents of Oregon and Washington upset by escalating bank fees are taking their business to credit unions, where fees are lower and service is better, according to a survey of the region’s credit unions by the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA).

Information reported to the NWCUA shows that since Bank of America announced its latest fee, inquiries from consumers interested in joining a credit union has skyrocketed, with several institutions seeing membership inquiries double. Those new credit union members are now added to the mounting roll of former bank customers.

“Profit is the only reason these big banks are adding fees to services that are free at credit unions,” NWCUA President Troy Stang said. “Bank customers are tired of the inherently-conflicting goals of maintaining exorbitant profits and providing the best products and service possible. Credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives led by volunteers. There’s no question that credit unions serve the banking public, and there’s no question that joining a credit union will save people money.”

A recent report on the benefits of being a credit union member show a savings of $92 per year for each of Washington’s 2,711,781 credit union members, and a savings of $105 per year for each of Oregon’s 1,339,580 credit union members. Adding the additional $3-to-$15 savings in monthly debit card and checking account fees that members are also now avoiding could raise savings to as high as $165 per credit union member.

If everyone in the region avoided a major bank and joined a credit union, the total savings after the implementation of the bank fees on checking accounts could be as much as $1 billion.

“Consumers do not have to take these outrageous bank fees sitting down,” says NWCUA CEO John Annaloro. “Because nearly everyone is eligible to join a credit union, they should consider the money-saving advantage of banking with a not-for-profit cooperative.”

Annaloro’s comment comes as Bank of America, CitiBank and other big banks announce new fees on debit cards and checking accounts. The publicity that is driving fed-up consumers to seek bank alternatives is also driving discussion on Capitol Hill, where a U.S. Senator implored people on Monday to “get the heck out of that bank” and find a financial institution that isn’t charging a fee at every turn. A North Carolina Congressman also introduced a bill this week that would make it easier for bank customers to close their accounts and prohibit banks from assessing fees for the process.

In addition to typical member savings, a recent survey by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) showed that free checking at banks is disappearing, but eight out of 10 credit unions still offer at least one free checking account with no minimum balance requirement and no maintenance or activity fees.

 Consumers can learn more about credit unions and find one they are eligible to join at aSmarterChoice.org.

More than 92 million Americans already belong to one of America’s 7,500 credit unions. Last year, more than half a million people joined. Here’s why:

  • Consumers save more than $6.7 billion a year in lower fees and better rates by using credit unions rather than banks. That’s an average yearly savings of $75 per person or $142 per family (CUNA Member Benefits Survey, March 2011).
  • Eighty percent of credit unions provide free checking (CUNA 2010-2011 Credit Union Fee Survey).
  • More than 70 percent of credit unions today offer debit/ATM cards (CUNA June 2011 Member Survey).
  • Credit unions provide more than 28,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide via the CO-OP Network.
  • Numerous independent surveys (such as Forrester Research, American Customer Satisfaction Index, and Chicago Booth/Kellogg School) have rated credit unions tops in the field in consumer trust and satisfaction.

 

Questions or Concerns? Contact Matt Halvorson, Anthem Editor: mhalvorson@nwcua.org.

Posted in NWCUA.