The Credit Union National Association is reporting that at least 650,000 consumers across the US have joined credit unions since Sept. 29.
The surge in members followed Bank of America's announcement that it planned to charge $5 a month for debit card use, association officials said in a news release.
CUNA estimated that credit unions added $4.5 billion in new savings accounts and that more than four in every five credit unions experienced growth since September. The association attributed the growth not only to the announcement of the proposed bank fees, but the social media/Occupy Wall Street backed Bank Transfer Day on Nov. 5.
"The results indicate that consumers are clearly making a smarter choice by moving to credit unions where, on average, they will save about $70 a year in fewer or no fees, lower rates on loans and higher return on savings," said CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney in a news release.
The growth is particularly noticeable at larger credit unions -- those with $100 million or more in assets, Cheney said. They account for about 20 percent of all credit unions, but serve about 80 percent of credit union members. The CUNA survey indicated that more than 70 percent of these credit unions reported they have seen growth in memberships and deposits since Sept. 29.
"Many credit unions across the nation -- whether they are realizing new members or not -- are making special efforts to tap the surging interest in credit unions," Cheney said.
"They are conducting advertising campaigns both individually and cooperatively with others, sending 'switch kits' to existing members to share with family members or other prospective members, beefing up websites, extending hours and staffing for Bank Transfer Day, performing email blasts to members, maximizing social media campaigns, putting up banners in lobbies or on their buildings, offering bonuses to members who bring in new members, and giving bonuses to members as well," Cheney said.
"They are doing whatever their resources will allow them to do to help serve this consumer surge in interest in credit unions."
Searches for credit unions continue to surge on the website aSmarterChoice.org, with more than 56,000 visitors in October, according to Cheney.