WASHINGTON (11/5/12)--The Credit Union National Association has distributed a radio news release to stations around the U.S. in anticipation of today's one-year anniversary of Bank Transfer Day, which marked a lovefest for credit unions as consumers fled high-fee banks for sensible financial services.
In the radio segment, CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney, as he did last week in a Huffington Post
column, takes note of the strong growth credit unions have seen in new members and new checking accounts over the past year.
"More than 2.2 million Americans became members of credit unions during the 12 months ending in June of this year," Cheney said. "Not only is that the fastest increase in new membership that we've seen in over a decade, it's also four times greater than the 550,000 who joined during the year ending in June of 2011.
"Why are people switching to credit unions? For starters, about 80% of credit unions today still offer free checking accounts. And, fees in general tend to be lower at not-for-profit credit unions than at banks," he said. To hear the audio clip, click on the clip at the end of the story.
Cheney also is scheduled to be a guest this evening on the Fox Business Network's
Willis Report discussing what credit unions have seen in the year since Bank Transfer Day. The Willis Report airs at 6 p.m. ET.
During the 12 months between June 2011 and June 2012, share draft/checking accounts at credit unions rose 2.87 million, to 47.6 million accounts, a 6.4% increase, according to CUNA's economics and statistics department. That compares with a 2.9% increase in the previous year. The number of accounts is a record back to since CUNA began counting checking accounts in 1989.
The increased consumer awareness about credit unions leading up to Bank Transfer Day also resulted in more consumers finding credit unions--via aSmarterChoice.org, which launched in March 2011. For much of 2011, the site had averaged 2,000 visits a week from people seeking to find a credit union. On the Friday before Bank Transfer Day, it recorded 40,000 visits. On Bank Transfer Day itself, which was a Saturday, the site registered 40,000 visits. Since then, the site has averaged 5,000 to 7,000 visits a week through 2012. In the first nine months of 2012, more than 300,000 successful credit union searches were conducted by consumers.
The beauty of the growth that stems from Bank Transfer Day is that it was a consumer-inspired social media drive that urged people to move their money from big banks to credit unions because bank customers were fed up with increasing fees. The word spread with thousands of mouse clicks in social media movement, with current members telling others how great their credit unions were and giving testimony to the philosophy of credit unions and their low fees or no fees and better rates.
Throughout the year, national media have focused on the rapid growth of credit union membership. One of the latest reports, in Crain's Cleveland Business
(Oct. 29) discusses the growth of Ohio's credit unions' membership. Mike Schenk, vice president of economics and statistics at CUNA, told the publication about the growth: "We think a lot of it has to do with Bank Transfer Day and follow-on activities. That single event really has snowballed. It's created a tremendous amount of interest in and awareness of credit unions."
The Wisconsin Credit Union League noted that in the 12 months ended June 30, checking account growth was 6.6%, the largest in over a decade. "Consumers are acting as if every day is Bank Transfer Day," said league President Brett Thompson. "While the strength and safety of credit unions attracted many consumers during the economic downturn, consumers have grown more loyal and are spreading the news because of the savings they're seeing." Consumers in the state saved $201 million in 2011, just be being members of credit unions rather than using banks--$76 per member or $144 per family.