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Turn to CU media blitz continues
MADISON, Wis. (10/19/11)--Momentum is still building as the "turn to a credit union" media blitz continues to spotlight credit unions as alternatives for consumers fed up with big banks' debit card fees. Credit unions found their way into USA Today, U.S. News and World Report and regional media outlets throughout the country on Tuesday. Many of Tuesday's stories discuss the perceived difficulty in switching financial institutions, the debit fee interchange rule that prompted the banks to raise their debit card fees to recoup lost interchange fee income, a Florida lawmaker's proposal to ban debit fees, and the upcoming Bank Transfer Day on Nov. 5, which continues to build thousands of supporters, including many who say they will switch to credit unions. Overall, credit unions continue to be highlighted by media as a low-cost or no-fee, service-oriented alternative to the bank fees. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) was cited as a source on fees by USA Today (Oct. 18). The article, "Some things to consider before switching your bank," said that "credit unions view raising fees as a last resort." In light of the public outrage against Bank of America's and other banks' move to raise debit card fees, "Credit unions are doing all they can to hold the line on fees," Mark Wolff, CUNA's senior vice president of communications and media relations, told the nationwide newspaper. The article also noted that "you won't necessarily pay higher ATM fees if you join a small bank or credit union" and that credit unions "belong to networks that offer thousands of surcharge-free ATMs. Some small banks and credit unions waive fees for using an out-of-network ATM." In U.S. News & World Report's "My Money" column (Oct. 18), credit unions are viewed as "another good option" for consumers looking to make a change. "Credit unions have become more popular as people look to move away from the 'too big to fail' banks," wrote personal finance columnist Jim Wang. "Credit unions offer better rates because they aren't always looking at the bottom line," he wrote. At a credit union, the owners are the depositors and so profits are returned to customers in the form of better rates and, sometimes, a special dividend." He added that membership requirements are "easy to overcome" and that credit unions mitigate the geographic footprint issue by joining ATM networks. "Take a look at a local credit union," he urged. The Bay Citizen (Oct. 18) in San Francisco reported that "Bay Area credit unions report hundreds of consumers have begun to move their money." It noted that Alli Panelas, who is part of the Occupy Wall Street movement, spent Monday at Patelco CU, opening a checking account, a savings account, and a certificate of deposit. She plans to close her account at Chase. She told the newspaper she would rather invest her time, energy and money in a community institutions rather than a large bank. Patelco has seen the number of new accounts increase from 78 a day in September to 118 a day in October. It's not just a matter of fees. Credit unions and banks just have two different models, Brett Martinez, president/CEO of Redwood CU, told the publication. He noted that 160 depositors had switched from Bank of America to Redwood CU since Oct. 5 due to the bank's new monthly debit card fee. San Francisco FCU reported a more modest increase in new accounts. However, the California Credit Union League expects more. "This is the tip of the iceberg," said Henry Kertman, spokesman for the league. Evergreen CU, Portland, Maine, has opened 15 to 20 new accounts since the debit fees were announced by banks. Tucker Cole, president, told Mainebiz (Oct. 18) that the credit union has a message on its electronic board outside its main office with the message, "Are you paying bank fees? Try a credit union." The Maine Credit Union League reported traffic on its site surged 21% in 10 days after Bank of America's Sept. 28 disclosure of the fees. It surveyed 64 credit unions and found none plan to institute a debit card fee, league President John Murphy told the publication. Use the resource links below to access the articles.
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