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Zenith of publicity making history for CUs
MADISON, Wis. (11/7/11)--Credit unions have "made it" in terms of public awareness. On Friday, credit unions and their growth in membership since the announcement of Bank of America's $5 monthly debit card fee (now-rescinded) were being talked about by USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek/The Daily Beast, HeadlineNews, NBC's "The Today Show," and more.

On Friday, the day before Bank Transfer Day, credit union growth was the No. 1 story on Bank Transfer Day's Twitter site, which featured an ABC News story leading off with the statistics from the Credit Union National Association (CUNA)  indicating 650,000 consumers have already switched accounts to credit unions since Sept. 29.  Also, Twitter reported that the Bank Transfer Day page was in the top 10 pages most tweeted.

The growth in membership--650,000 new accounts and $4.5 billion in new deposits since Sept. 29--points out that consumers are seeking alternatives to high bank fees, said The New York Times Dealbook  (Nov. 4). "I think it's a last straw thing," CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney told the Times. "Even though banks are backing up on some of their fees, there's a sense that if it's not this fee, it's going to be something else."

The Times also talked with David Becker, president of PhilippeBecker, a San Francisco design firm, who had kept his business accounts at a small local bank for years. He found shelter from fees at a small local credit union. "I called my credit union up the other day, and someone answered the phone," he told the Times. "I was like, holy smokes! I'm on a different planet!"

Among the more noteworthy articles:

  • Time's Moneyland blog noted that credit unions' new 650,000 accounts were 50,000 more than the new accounts generated at credit unions in all of 2010. It quoted CUNA's Cheney as saying that the increase is most pronounced at the nation's largest credit unions and noting that many credit unions weree extending their hours or adding staff in preparation for Bank Transfer Day.
  • TheDailyBeast.com reported that in just a few weeks, credit unions have witnessed a whopping 1,200% increase in new customers. "We think that traffic is coming right out of Bank of America, based on anecdotal evidence from our member credit unions," CUNA Senior Vice President of Communications and Chief Communications Officer Mark Wolff told the publication, noting that bank customers "are seeing this retreat from banks as too little, too late."
  • USA Today noted that on the eve of "Bank Transfer Day," the grass-roots backlash against higher fees, U.S. credit unions say have added more than 650,000 members and $4.5 billion in new deposits in the past month. That's 50,000 more new accounts than for all of 2010, it said citing CUNA's statistics. Cheney said in the article that many credit unions are making special efforts to tap the surging interest in credit unions.
  • NBC's "The Today Show" featured a segment with personal finance writer Jean Chatzky  on hidden fees in banks and mentioned the statistics as well.
Use the resource links to access the stories. And to get an idea of the scope of coverage, check out the resource link on 81 media sites.

Leagues are reporting increased coverage in their states as well.. New Jersey Credit Union League President Paul Gentile said that the league monitors searches for New Jersey credit unions. "The number in October is almost 10 times what it is in a typical month," he said (The Daily Exchange Nov. 4).

Credit Union Association of New York League President/CEO Bill Mellin is not surprised that Bank Transfer Day has raised awareness of credit unions significantly in the public eye.  "This increased awareness presents a great opportunity not only for credit unions positioned for growth, but for the credit union community in general to focus on the mission and purpose of credit unions, not on fees or the business model of big banks," he said. "After all, it's not the fee structure that makes credit unions different; it's the commitment they have to their members and to helping them build financial independence."

Missouri Credit Union Association Chief Membership Officer Don Cohenour explained the benefits of credit union membership in an interview with NBC Action News in Kansas City. He noted "we have seen a considerable increase [in membership] across the state."
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