MADISON, Wis. (10/12/11)--Credit unions are seizing on the public's discontent with big banks' fees and stepping up marketing efforts to pull in more members, said The Baltimore Sun (Oct. 10). It was just one of dozens of reports in media about credit unions seeing increased inquiries about membership as part of the Bank of America debit card fees fallout. Credit unions are attracting big-bank customers like Ken Rose, a Bank of America customer who is switching all his banking to Destinations CU in Parkville, Md., reported the Sun. Rose, a retired bus driver, told the newspaper, "You go to banks, they treat you like a criminal." But at credit unions, "they treat you so good." Destinations has served a credit-challenged field of membership, said Brian J. Vittek, president/CEO. Understanding the struggle of members, the credit union knows that "the last thing we want to do is impose more fines and more fees for no reason other than to make more money. Fees' almost like a bad word." Usually Destinations gains about 50 new members a month. But in September, 70 people joined the credit union, said the article. Richard Williams Jr., president, SecurityPlus FCU, Woodlawn, Md., told the publication that the fees outcry is "really an opportunity for most of us to … let people know we offer products that are equal to what large banks are offering." Consumers should take time, he said, to evaluate their relationship with their financial institutions. Rod Staatz, president/CEO of SECU CU of Maryland and vice president of the Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association, noted that even without banks implementing fees "we're still a better deal than most of the banks out there." Many credit unions are wooing new members by educating the public about the benefits of credit unions and the credit union difference. But they also are pledging commitments to charging no debit card fees. In South Carolina, credit unions are signing "Free Debit Card" pledges. Sharonview FCU, Fort Mill, S.C., became the 33rd credit union to pledge that it would not charge debit card fees, said the state credit union movement's Facebook page. Michigan Schools & Government CU, Clinton Township, Mich., told Warren Weekly that consumers are taking notice that credit unions are not only a place to store money, but also a way to save from increasing bank fees. Kim Socha, marketing director, told the publication the credit union is gaining more wallet share. Triangle CU, Nashua, N.H., which grew about 7.5% so far in 2011, expects the numbers to increase after Bank of America's plans to charge $5 a month for debit cards were announced. Dick Lavoie, vice president of marketing at Triangle, told The Telegraph (Oct. 9) that banks keep shooting themselves in the foot by implementing restrictions on their accounts. People are fed up and moving accounts, and "They're coming to credit unions." Now is not the time to come up with a new fee in this economy, he said. Karen LaPlume, vice president of marketing at Granite State CU, Manchester, N.H., reported to The Telegraph the credit union had received a slight influx of people inquiring about their checking accounts and fees since the BofA announcement. Some credit unions are capitalizing on the opportunity in their advertising. "Why pay for your debit card?" asks an ad for St. Louis (Mo.) Community CU. The ad is "our bags-fly-free moment," said Patrick Adams, CEO, referring to Southwest airline's ad, which mocks fees charged by its competitors (St. Louis Post Dispatch via STLtoday.com Oct. 10. CNN Wire reported that consumers are "mad as hell, and they're not gonna take it anymore," referring to bank fees. The new fees are the final straw, but analysts cautioned against the difficulty of measuring the closure of accounts due to a policy change. However, one switch can be attributed to a $15 a month fee Chase placed earlier this year on the business account of Jeff Fisher, a graphic designer and author from Oregon. Fisher said he decided to switch banks, even though the location was less convenient. When he tweeted his dissatisfaction, he received two offers--one from OnPoint Community CU, Portland, and one from a smaller bank. After evaluating his options, he moved to the credit union. Fisher told CNN he "really appreciated" the way he was treated as a small business person. "They treated me like I was one of the biggest businesses in the city coming in."