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Technology makes it easier to switch
MADISON, Wis. (10/21/11)--Credit unions are doing their best to make switching from a bank to a credit union easy, and technology is helping. As Bank Transfer Day (Nov. 5) approaches, credit unions have made it easier than ever to join a financial cooperative, said the Northwest Credit Union Association. "A new member can walk into a credit union and join in less than a half-hour thanks to switch kits developed to make it easy," said NWCUA CEO John Annaloro. "I've heard pundits say switching is a complicated process, fraught with potential for costly mistakes. Switching is easy and safe." Consumers can join credit unions online or use unified account-opening processes that can help make the credit union the primary financial institution of the new member. Because many credit unions participate in a shared branching program, access a member account is easy, said NWCUA. One credit union is on the forefront of the concierge trend. TIC FCU, a $240 million asset credit union in Columbus, Ga., is one of about half a dozen institutions using SwitchAgent, a concierge service launched a week ago by Deluxe after the Occupy Wall Street movement began focusing on Bank Transfer Day, setting it as a day for consumers to protest high bank fees by switching to a credit union or small local bank. The service helps consumers shift online bill payments of recurring automatic debits, such as house payments, Social Security payments, and memberships, from their old accounts to new ones at another institution (American Banker Oct. 20). Credit union staff use an authorization form that requests account information necessary for Deluxe to make changes with creditors and payers. On the form, the new account holder lists all preauthorized transactions and supplies it to Deluxe through the phone or online. Deluxe, which started offering the service about a week ago, urges its clients not to charge for the service. The credit union's president, Mark Littleton, told the publication that it hopes to gain more members who have preauthorized transactions, ACH, auto pay, and other "sticky" services. Consumers don't have to spend their time making the transition, because service does it for them. The service includes a proprietary biller database and tracks the schedule and distribution of billing notification to keep the consumer's old account from becoming overdrawn or open too long. Both the old and new accounts must stay open while the recurring payments are transferred to the new account. "For consumers, there is no better choice than credit unions," Annaloro said. "Credit unions are convenient, safe and --best of all--they are not banks."


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