Credit unions added more new members during that month than in all of 2010.
Credit unions are benefiting from the backlash against big banks over new fees. And in Texas, credit unions gained $326 million in new deposits from 47,000 new members during the month leading up to the so-called Bank Transfer Day. The Saturday event was orchestrated by an online campaign urging consumers to move their money from banks to the generally smaller credit unions.
The Texas Credit Union League, a state trade association, said that is four times the number of new accounts it saw in an average month in 2010.
Nationwide, credit unions added more new members during that month than in all of 2010.
Members Choice Credit Union, whose 37,000 members are mostly from Houston, saw 400 new accounts in October, compared with 287 in the same month last year.
Spokeswoman Kelly Gaines said that many customers moved to the credit union after Bank of America announced it would start charging a monthly $5 fee to customers who make purchases with debit cards.
“Most of the new accounts said, ‘I’ve been thinking about switching, but that fee was the last straw,’ ” she said.
Bank of America and others have since abandoned the fee plans.
While the shift to credit unions could affect large banks over time, that would likely take a while, said Dan Bass, managing director of investment banking at FBR Capital Markets & Co.
“The administrative burden of changing banks is so high, I don’t think we will see a huge movement,” he said, adding that any customer who pays bills online — 44 million households and counting, according to Javelin Strategy and Research — will have to re-enter that payment information.
“The hassle factor will keep the numbers down.”
Houston-based First Community Credit Union reports its membership climbed 58 percent in October, to 1,339, from 846 during the same month last year. On Bank Transfer Day, the credit union opened 53 new memberships with total deposits of $229,171, spokeswoman Amber Magee said.
It won’t be known for weeks how many total deposits were transferred, but credit unions are trying to leverage the publicity to attract customers.
“It’s a tipping point,” said Winter Prosapio, a spokeswoman for the state association. “We can point out that we’re not your grandfather’s credit union anymore. We have online banking, mobile apps and international access.”
Houston’s Transtar Federal Credit Union, for instance, has been taking advantage of the negative publicity surrounding big banks by targeting those who may have loans but no checking accounts with the credit union, vice president Ben Newcomb said.
In October, the Transtar credit union opened 32 new checking accounts, compared with 18 in the same month last year.
“That’s definitely growth that can be attributed to everything that’s been going on,” he said.
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