Hundreds of Long Islanders celebrated Bank Transfer Day on Saturday by flooding local non-profit credit unions and ripping up newly inactive checks and debit cards to make room for shiny new plastic cards displaying the logo of their preferred credit union.
Bethpage Federal Credit Union reported that more than 1,200 new accounts were opened on Saturday alone, far more than the usual 300 accounts the credit union opens on average per week. National Educators Financial Credit Union (NEFCU) said the number of new members would be available on Monday. Teachers Federal Credit Union couldn’t be reached for comment.
Two of the three credit unions extended hours of operation on Saturday and some added more staff to the schedule because of the expected increase in traffic.
“It’s not a secret that consumers are unhappy with the fundamental changes,” of big financial institutions, said a spokeswoman for Bethpage Federal Credit Union.
All Bethpage Federal branches were packed and had a steady stream of people, the spokeswoman said. At the main branch in Bethpage, new members were treated to hot dogs and popcorn. Customers smiled as they sliced up their old cards.
Bethpage also added to the excitement by offering new members $100 to open a new account. An offer many people couldn’t pass up.
The first customer at a NEFCU branch told the staff that he was a Chase customer looking to switch, a spokeswoman for the credit union said.
The Bank Transfer Day movement gained steam after a small business owner frustrated with the additional fees being proposed by big banks went on Facebook one day and created the event. Thousands started to RSVP soon after. As of Saturday, more than 84,000 people said they were going to cancel accounts and move their cash to credit unions.
“Until the mega banks eliminate all new monthly checking account fees, consumers’ frustration and discontent will continue,” Kirk Kordeleski, President and CEO, Bethpage Federal Credit Union said in a statement.
He added, “Consumers are leveraging their voices to make a difference and realize that valuable options exist in credit unions. Bethpage is a trustworthy alternative to the big banks where consumers are not charged any fees to access their own hard-earned money.”
The backlash directed at big banks prompted corporations to abandon planned debit card fees that were set to go in effect next year. Bank of America scratched a $5 fee. JP Morgan Chase did the same with a $3 charge. Others followed suit.
In the week’s leading up to the national event, the three credit unions joined forces to create the website betterbankingforlongisland.com, where they challenge Long Islanders to “take a stand” on Nov. 5.
Long Island’s NEFCU reported a 23 percent increase in new checking accounts since the Bank Transfer Day movement began. The movement has also spurred plenty of activity nationwide with Credit Union National Association reporting 650,000 consumers across the country have joined credit unions in the last four weeks.