14 Sep 2014
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Alamedans Move Money for Bank Transfer Day

Shifting funds to regional banks and credit unions to make a political statement.

Alamedans Move Money for Bank Transfer Day

A campaign encouraging consumers to move their money from big banks to credit unions and community-based banks appears to be gaining momentum in Alameda.

On websites such as the  Move Your Money Project and the Bank Transfer Day Facebook page, the public is being urged to pull their money out of large commercial banks on  Nov. 5. Some consumers have already transferred their accounts to smaller institutions such as credit unions

According to Greg Pulliam, chief administrative officer for First United Services Credit Union, which has a branch in the Island's Marina Village shopping area, new memberships at the Alameda branch rose 81 percent between September and October and they anticipate another spike in new customers this month. He said they are deploying extra staff for Saturday in preparation for bank transfer day.

"We don't see this being just a one-day increase this month," said Pulliam. "We continue to experience an ongoing wave of big bank customers calling us who are concerned about their fees and who want to move their accounts."

While consumers are frequently drawn to credit unions because they tout no or low fees, some worry they will not be able to easily access their money. Pulliam said that concern is misplaced. "Prospective customers are often surprised credit unions have more readily available automatic teller machine (ATM) access than large commercial banks," he said.

"Most credit unions are linked into a surcharge-free, 28,000-count ATM system which actually offers twice the number of ATMs than that of Bank of America or any of the other individual large banks," Pulliam said.

The announcement on Sept. 29 by Bank of America and some other large banks that they would charge debit card fees of $5 a month has fueled the Transfer Day cause. Bank of America eventually  dropped the planned fee hike.

According to the American Banker, the  Credit Union Association is reporting this week that  a total of 650,000 Americans joined credit unions since Sept. 29. It estimates in the past month that credit unions have added $4.5 billion in new savings accounts — more than all of 2010 combined.  

Alameda resident Daniel Levy is among those who has shifted his money. "I just closed an account at Bank of America and it felt great," Levy said.

Levy said he timed his transaction as close as he could to the Nov. 5 bank transfer day although he had been contemplating the move for a long time.

"Bank of America was charging me $16 a month for them to hold my money. The fee was going to hit again on Nov. 1, so I pulled it all out on Oct. 28," said Levy. "I had rehearsed a whole speech in my mind about what I would tell the teller if he asked why I was closing the account. I was going to tell him that I refused to let my money continue to fund the irresponsible behavior of Bank of America which has sent our economy into a tailspin while enriching the 1 percent. Unfortunately, he didn't ask a thing. He probably was told not to ask." 

Steve Andrews, President and Chief Executive Officer of Bank of Alameda with branches in Alameda and Oakland, said his bank has seen a modest increase in inquiries from prospective customers the entire third quarter of the year. While it may be due to some backlash against big banks, he said he cannot be certain.

Alameda Credit Union located at was established in 1937 and is now the oldest financial institution in the city. Chief Operating Officer, Donald Winstead said the credit union currently has 3,408 members and saw an almost 2 percent increase in its membership over the last month — or 60 new members. 

Winstead said concern over ATM availability should not deter people from transferring their funds. Alameda Credit Union is affiliated with two major ATM systems, he said, with thousands of locations. "We have never had one member say their bank card didn't work in an ATM machine," he said, "even when they were traveling."

"The advantage to credit unions is that they are all nonprofit and are governed by their members. Big banks are going to protect their third-party shareholders," Winstead said, "whereas credit unions do not have outside stockholders."

People transferring their money from larger banks offer an array of reasons for making the change, but one Alamedan said a larger bank better meets her needs.  

When Bank of Alameda closed their Bay Farm branch last spring, Harbor Bay resident Alison Harris said she moved her account over to Wells Fargo.

"I did this partly because Wells Fargo has a convenient ATM at the Harbor Bay Safeway and partly because my daughter who lives out of the country and I already have a joint account there so I can more easily handle her United States banking transactions for her," Harris said.

No matter whether people are happy or dissatisfied with their current financial institution, Bank Transfer Day seems to have made people stop and examine just what their banking requirements are and whether they are being well met. 

You can use the Move Your Money project’s  community bank and credit union finder tool to find a credit union near you.  For a list of credit unions in Alameda County, go here.  

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