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Cheney on CNBC Bank backlash leads to growing CU membership
WASHINGTON (10/18/11)--Credit unions, and their new members, are poised to benefit as more and more Americans become fed up with their banks, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Bill Cheney said during a Monday interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box. A proposed nationwide Bank Transfer Day, scheduled for Nov. 5, appears to be gaining some momentum as around 50,000 people had pledged on Facebook, as of Monday night, to remove their funds from banks and transfer them into credit unions. Asked by CNBC’s hosts if such a mass movement could trigger bank runs, Cheney emphasized that is unlikely. Overall, Cheney said, the message from CUNA and credit unions is that big bank customers would certainly “find a better value” at their local credit union branch. Cheney also noted that many current bank customers aren’t waiting for Nov. 5 to make their move. Some credit unions have already seen new membership applications increase fivefold, and traffic at CUNA’s aSmarterchoice.org has doubled over the past several weeks, Cheney explained. Much of this new attention is related to Bank of America's plans to raise its debit card fees to $5 a month. Many other large banks have also announced changes to deal with the burdens caused by the new debit interchange fee cap. Cheney noted that credit unions are “holding the line on fees,” and a large majority of credit unions have free checking accounts. He said credit unions offer most of the same services that can be found at larger banks, and have become more convenient through participation in shared branches and surcharge-free ATM networks like the 28,000 ATM CO-OP Network. Asked about a New York Times story over the weekend that suggested banks’ automatic bill pay and other new technologies are intended to make it harder and more complicated for customers to switch institutions, Cheney said he believes the real motivation is responding to consumers’ desire for convenient service. Many credit unions offer online bill pay, direct deposit, other online banking services for that reason, Cheney said. He also emphasized that many credit unions have account switch kits on-site to help move their new members through the account transfer process.


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