MADISON, Wis. (2/11/13)--Consumers continue to show a healthy interest in credit unions, as illustrated by the number of visitors last month to aSmarterChoice.org, which nearly matched the number of visitors the same month one year ago in the wake of Bank Transfer Day.
aSmarterChoice.org, established in 2011, is a website designed for consumers and media to learn more about credit unions and to help consumers find a credit union they are eligible to join. The website provides a comprehensive credit union locater that includes every credit union in the nation, and helps consumers find credit unions to join by answering a few simple questions about where they live, work or worship.
More than 20,200 total visits were made to the site last month. That's down about 5% from January 2012. But, one year ago, credit unions were still in the public eye following "Bank Transfer Day," the consumer-inspired movement to switch from big banks to credit unions after the imposition of new, high fees by the big banks. And aSmarterChoice.org reaped the benefit of high consumer interest in credit unions as a result--for up to six months following Bank Transfer Day.
"Frankly, we were pleasantly surprised by January 2013 numbers," said Paul Gentile, Credit Union National Association executive vice president of strategic engagement and communications. "The number of visitors each month during the latter part of 2012 had dropped off a bit, and then leveled off. But these latest numbers indicate that consumer interest in credit unions has picked up again."
Gentile pointed out that CUNA's analysis of credit union membership growth since September 2011 indicates a continuing interest in the benefits of credit unions.
He said CUNA estimates indicate memberships grew by 2.4 million (2.6%) in the year ending December 2012, and have grown 3.1 million (3.4%) in the period between the start of September 2011--the month when high bank fees were announced--and the end of December 2012. "Both in numbers and in percentage terms, the 12-month increase reported in 2012 is the fastest we've seen in about 15 years," Gentile said.
Also respectable, Gentile said, were the number of credit union searches conducted on aSmarterChoice.org in January 2013, compared with the same month last year. The total number of searches reached 17,021; in January 2012, the total searches were 15,800.
aSmarterChoice.org is a joint project of CUNA and the American Association of Credit Union Leagues. It is a prime example of credit unions, leagues and CUNA cooperating together to advance the credit union system and is aimed at helping create consumer awareness of and building membership in credit unions.