Bank fees driving consumers to CUs

Oct. 6, 2011 – Several credit unions have seen a rise in membership numbers following Bank of America’s announcement of a $5 monthly debit-card fee, with Navy FCU reporting a surge in new checking accounts over the weekend – an increase of 3,200.

Navy FCU isn’t the only credit union reporting increased account openings, reported DailyFinance.com. The publication quotes a member of the USPS CU who took her daughters to the credit union to open accounts; she pointed out they won’t have to pay a debit-card fee.

Suzy Bringman-Doughty, president of NAFT FCU, said her 9,000-member credit union has an online platform in place to attract younger members, and no fee is attached. “If you really don’t want to pay a fee, you don’t have to,” she is quoted saying. “[Retail banks’] goal is to make money for stockholders. That is not our goal.”

Arizona State CU, according to a WSJ.com story yesterday, reported a 20 percent increase in account openings in recent days. Mid-Atlantic FCU told NAFCU it has seen about a month’s worth of membership applications.

The activity shows consumers’ disenchantment with Wall Street, says Patty Briotta, NAFCU’s public relations manager. “This is a Main Street option,” she told Daily Finance.com.

Don’t be surprised if the trend continues: Citibank announced Wednesday that it won’t be charging a debit-card fee. Instead, it is introducing fees based on the amount of money customers keep there.

A $15 monthly fee, reports The Huffington Post, will apply for Citibank customers with less than $6,000 on account; a $20 fee will apply if they have less than $15,000 there.

CULookup.com, NAFCU’s credit union locator site, has seen traffic from unique visitors nearly triple since banks announced their debit-fee plans. Just for Tuesday, traffic was five times the daily norm, says NAFCU Services, which maintains the site.