Thousands of frustrated bank customers on Long Island and beyond are expected to transfer their money from big banks to local credit unions on Saturday for “Bank Transfer Day,” an annual event that has gained steam due to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Nassau Educators Federal Credit Union (NEFCU), Bethpage Federal Credit Union and Teachers Federal Credit Union have joined forces and created the website betterbankingforlongisland.com, where they challenge Long Islanders to “take a stand” on Nov. 5.
“With more and more individuals and businesses getting frustrated with the additional fees they are being charged by banks, people are starting to look at their options,” Robert G. Allen, president and CEO of Teachers Federal Credit Union, said in a statement. “Bank Transfer Day is just another opportunity for credit unions to educate consumers about the value of credit union membership.”
The backlash recently prompted big commercial banks like JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America to abandon planned debit card fees. Bank of America was planning on charging a $5 a month fee for debit transactions, and Chase was considering a $3 fee.
On Wednesday, Bank of America became the latest to scratch its plan to charge additional fees.
“We have listened to our customers very closely over the last few weeks and recognize their concern with our proposed debit usage fee,” David Darnell, co-chief operating officer of Bank of America, said in a statement. “As a result, we are not currently charging the fee and will not be moving forward with any additional plans to do so.”
Corporate banks defended the fees at the time, saying they were essential to compensate for revenue lost because of new regulations limiting how much banks can collect from retailers who allow debit card transactions.
Despite the about-face by banks, public anger still persists: More than 76,000 have RSVP’d through Facebook alone to move their money to local nonprofit credit unions.
Kristen Christian, a small business owner and current credit union member, told The Daily Beast she was so fed up with big banks’ intention to implement fees to many cash-strapped Americans that she went onto Facebook one day and created the Bank Transfer Day event on the social media site.
She told the publication: “If you don’t believe in a company’s practices or feel that a company’s practices are unethical, then very simply you should not have money with that company.”
Her message seems to have resonated with many Americans. According to Credit Union National Association, 650,000 consumers across the country have joined credit unions in the last four weeks. The organization estimated that credit unions added $4.5 billion in new saving accounts during that time.
Long Island’s NEFCU reports a 23 percent increase in new checking accounts since the Bank Transfer Day movement began in the run-up to this weekend. Valerie Garguilo, VP of Marketing and Community Relations for NEFCU, said the credit union is expecting more people to walk through the doors on Saturday.
She credited the event with creating “awareness around the credit union industry,” and believes some people have already made up their minds, despite banks’ decision to abandon fees.
“If people want to remain in their bank, that’s fine if you’re happy with your bank,” she said, “but certainly if you’re not, there is an alternative.”