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LOS ANGELES — Last Friday, Mayors & Cities Magazine wrote an article on what was to be the next day’s culmination of moving vast sums of money by consumers from major banks to credit unions and community-based banks. We said we’d give you an idea this week on how the Saturday, November 5, event went so here goes with what information we’ve been able to glean.
Bank Transfer Day really all began with a posting on Facebook from a disgruntled customer, Kristen Christian, fed up over her high banking fees. But the impetus for the movement lies at the feet of Bank of America, which proved it was not the smartest dollar in a teller’s cash box.
BofA lost about 650,000 accounts after its September 29 announcement that it would impose a $5 a month fee on customers using their debit cards. Now maybe $60 annually does not sound like a fortune to some people, but to thousands the response was to reach for their pitchforks and torches and storm BofA. Already frustrated banking customers decided enough was enough. And it was enough for BofA as well, when it saw its accounts plummeting and announced on November 1 that it was dropping its $5 fee plan.
But the “mad as hell” folks, who seem to be holding both banks and Wall Street in nearly equal contempt, were not content. Thus, was born the Bank Transfer Day and with Facebook’s ability to reach thousands of like-minded people, and an assist from the various “Occupy” movements scattered across the country, Saturday did actually turn into a day of reckoning.
Although none of the major banks including BofA, Wells Fargo and Chase released figures on how many accounts were closed and how much money was withdrawn on Saturday, the credit unions were almost giddy in seeing their results. Well, not almost – they were.
Prior to the Bank Transfer Day, but following BofA’s $5 debit card fee, the Credit Union National Fund discovered that credit unions had increased their customer numbers by about 650,000. The Los Angeles Times noted that the number was more than the 600,000 people who joined credit unions in a year, not a couple of months.
A poll by Harris Interactive also found that 90 percent of credit union customers were extremely or very likely to stick with their current institutions as opposed to only 40 percent of BofA customers and the other major banks didn’t fare much better.
So, while there is no clear data that has been released regarding Saturday’s Bank Transfer Day, it was obvious looking at credit union parking lots across the country that they seemed more than a bit, and maybe a lot, busier than usual. And that’s not even including what transfers occurred online.
And while it is unlikely that the major banks are going to melt like the Wicked Witch, they should keep a wary eye on that bucket of water in the corner that many consumers seem to be willing to reach for and do some dumping. It’s something that has not happened in this country for awhile. And it’s called empowerment.