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CUs grow as bank fees loom--media roundup
MADISON, Wis. (3/7/12)--As banks introduce another round of fees, media across the nation continue to report on credit unions' membership growth due in part to consumers' disillusionment with bank fees. Newspapers in Ohio, Wisconsin, Los Angeles, Georgia and more, as well as CNNMoney, reported that credit unions grew in membership.

"Credit unions hit a record number of members last year, as a growing number of consumers grew fed up with the fees at the nation's biggest banks and took their money elsewhere," said CNNMoney (March 1). Credit unions added 1.3 million new memberships in 2011, bringing total membership to a record 91.8 million by the end of 2011. The article noted that much of the growth was in fourth quarter and spurred by consumer movements like Bank Transfer Day. It also referred to a J.D. Power and Associates report that showed a similar exodus from big banks to smaller banks and credit unions.

Ohio's credit unions also benefitted from banks' fees, said the Dayton Daily News Monday in the article, "Bank fees push customers to area credit unions." "Consumers frustrated with bank fees and services helped area credit unions add more than 35,000 new members last year," it said.  More than 40 credit unions in a seven-county area finished the year with a record 491,160 members--a 7.6% increase over 2010 and an 11.3% increase over membership in 2009.

The Ohio Credit Union League told the Daily News that although credit unions account for about 7% of all deposits in Ohio, many are growing their memberships through word of mouth and frustration with bank fees and policies.

Jennifer Tschudi of Kettering, Ohio, said she joined Wright-Patt FCU, a Fairborn, Ohio-based credit union, and closed her Bank of America account in October because the bank was not meeting her needs and she was dismayed by its announcement in September that it would charge a $5 monthly debit card fee. That fee was rescinded after the public outcry it prompted.  The article reported on Bank Transfer Day's impact, which prompted 441,000 new memberships in September and October, it said.

"The discontent with big banks in 2011 was a boon for credit unions across the nation, including many in Wisconsin," reported The Post-Crescent in Appleton, Wis., Monday.  Although the area didn't get as big a membership growth last year as counterparts elsewhere in the nation, that may be "because we have such a strong credit union presence," Cathie Tierney, president of Community First CU, Appleton, told the newspaper.

Statewide the number of members increased by 39,421 over last year, said the state's Office of Credit Unions. In the month leading up to Nov. 5's Bank Transfer Day, Wisconsin credit unions added 14,700 new members and $102 million in new deposits, said the Wisconsin Credit Union League in the article.

Capital CU, Kimberly, Wis., added 800 new members last year to reach 33,000. Lakeview CU, Neenah, added 50 people "the best year we've had in a long, long time," Pat Lowney, Lakeview president, told the newspaper. He attributed the increase to the increased visibility and awareness of credit unions. Member service representatives told him people joined because of dissatisfaction with big banks.

Forty percent of the state's population belongs to a credit union.

The Los Angeles Times' Morning Money column also noted that credit unions doubled new memberships last year as major banks were targeted by the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the Bank of America's plans for the debit card fee were announced. "Consumers fed up with the rising tide of bank fees helped the nation's credit unions more than double their number of new customers last year," the article said, citing National Credit Union Administration's statistics.

In Savannah, Ga., the Savannah Morning News reported that statewide, deposits grew 10.5% last year "driven largely by new fees and account changes imposed by the large banks." It said the results of four local credit unions--Georgia Heritage FCU, Georgia's Own CU, GeoVista FCU and Workmen's Circle CU--increased their deposits and assets in 23011.
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