What We Learned From Bank Transfer Day

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Amid the hype and hoopla, the protest marches, and the bank occupations, it seems something interesting happened on Bank Transfer Day: People actually moved their money. The Credit Union National Association, or CUNA, which has been thrust into the unexpected position of suddenly being the cool kid at the party, reported that nearly 700,000 people have become members in the weeks leading up to the event, with 40,000 alone joining a local credit union Saturday. Credit unions recorded $80 million in new savings and made $90 million in new loans to new and existing customers.

Now that we can claim Bank Transfer Day a success, let's take a look at what we learned.

You can opt out of the big bank system
The beauty of Bank Transfer Day was that it was inherently Foolish. Much like we Fools advocate for understanding and building your own portfolio, Bank Transfer Day advocated for understanding and building your own banking. It empowered regular people to take an active role in managing the bigger picture of their money. It was led by the notion that people without million-dollar portfolios could still determine how and by whom their money is being used.

You can do it without living outside in a tent
Bank Transfer Day worked because it appealed to the many people who are not able, interested, or willing to take part in a camp-out protest. While Occupy Wall Street protesters took part in many of the activities on Nov. 5, organizing marches and rallies in several cities, those activities were ancillary. The organizer of Bank Transfer Day made it clear this was a separate movement. Holding banks accountable, while important, was not the primary motivation. Whereas Occupy Wall Street is attempting to reason with a crazy person (large banks), Bank Transfer Day simply ended the conversation.

Opting out of the big bank system may not affect it much (and that's OK)
As I noted on Monday, individual accounts with moderately low balances -- the type that would have been hit hardest under many of the proposed fees -- don't typically generate much revenue for larger banks. CUNA estimates that credit union members save $6.3 billion each year just by doing business with a credit union, an average of just under $70 per member. That won't hit Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) too hard -- and in fact, big banks may be just as happy to see those accounts go. But for many of the people who switched to a credit union, the satisfaction that comes with that extra $70 a year may be priceless.

It's not over
The proposed fees that prompted Bank Transfer Day have mostly vanished. B of A has rescinded the $5 monthly debit card fee that prompted the most vitriol, and the other banks fell in line like dominoes. JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) , Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) , Regions Financial (NYSE: RF  ) , and SunTrust (NYSE: STI  ) have all backed away slowly from recently announced fees and pilot fee programs. But that doesn't mean other fees aren't coming. Other banks, including BB&T and Fifth Third, are looking for additional ways to generate revenue.

Fool reader Travis Tredwell works for a local credit union and shared some advice it gives prospective customers: You should remember that allowing a financial institution to hold your money is a privilege, one that you can take away.

Want to see how these companies will fare in the coming quarters? Add these companies to My Watchlist.

Did you switch to a credit union? Tell me about it below.

Molly McCluskey is a big fan of living outside in a tent and has done so on numerous occasions. She does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (39) | Recommend This Article (19)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 11:55 AM, WikiCPA wrote:

    "Now that we can claim Bank Transfer Day a success, let's take a look at what we learned."

    How do you claim it a success when less than 1% of large bank customers switched to credit unions?

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 12:01 PM, Pkalia wrote:

    I work with Bethpage Federal Credit Union and wanted to say that the Long Island reaction to Bank Transfer Day has been enormous. Bethpage is pleased to say that it experienced an unprecedented spike in business and opened nearly 4X its normal amount of new checking accounts during its one-week Bank Transfer Day promo! Through November 31, Bethpage is continuing to pay members $50 to fire their bank and sign up for new checking accounts.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 1:55 PM, ballengerm wrote:

    I don't understand where this $70 in fees is coming from. I have accounts with two big banks, not much money in them at all, and don't pay any fees. I am positive that I am a net loss of money for both of them.

    I have three checking accounts: Bank of America, ING Direct, and JSC Federal Credit Union. I really only use my ING account. I keep my JSC account open so I can use their change counting machine and for the occasional signature loan. I keep BofA for their ATMs (envelopeless, instant cash and check depost). I typically deposit money in a BofA ATM and then immediately transfer that money online to my ING account.

    I never keep more than $30 in my BofA checking account, and the only fee I can remember paying in the last two years was a $4 wire transfer fee that the credit union charged me.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 3:17 PM, DivingDan wrote:

    I've been a Credit Union member for 25 years and I'll never use a "big bank". I get better rates and better service hands down.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 3:49 PM, TheDumbMoney wrote:

    I echo ballengerm, and go further. Tthis is all a bunch of populist, pitchfork-weilding nonsense (not your column, the idea).

    I have totally free accounts at BofA and INGDirect and HSBCDirect. I pay no fees, and you don't have to have thousands and thousands in the bank in order to pay no fees. I use BofA's extremely convenient auto-bill-pay so that I can pay ALL of my bills online, from one location (my BofA billpay page)..., all for free. Also, I can transfer money electronically to any other BofA member..., for free. Did you people know that? Also, transfers of money as between BofA and my online-only savings accounts are..., free, both ways. BofA has a bajillion ATMs virtually everywhere I go, and they are..., free. And, I don't have to look up online where an ATM that is free is, which you have do with credit union banded-together free ATMs: I just look for a big red and blue sign, which I inevitably see within a few minutes.

    So why on earth would I leave Bank of America, except to make a meaningless point that would make my life harder and cost me more money? Why would anybody? Why would I pay more for less convenience? This is especially so since the big-banks-standing were, relatively speaking, the good banks, that didn't have enormous numbers of terrible loans. But now they're evil because, often under near-threat-of-force from the government, they bought the banks with many terrible loans, Wachovia, WaMu, and, in BofA's case Countrywide and ML?? The banks that were sound, but forced by the government to take bail-out money so no banks would be considered weaker than others, and which then paid all of that bailout money back, with interest? Those evil banks? If we had bailed out individual home-owners, would the homeowners have paid the government, i.e., you and me, back with interest, as the "evil" banks did?

    Please, spare me.

    -- DTAF, Unrepentant

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 4:26 PM, TheDumbMoney wrote:

    Now THIS makes sense:

    Following along with a financially-non-savvy person who set up bank transfer day as a Facebook protest will not save you money, will not make your life easier, and will change nothing. THIS will save you money, make your life easier, and, maybe actually accomplish something broader: Fire your mutual fund. Fire your broker. Maybe even fire yourself, and just index-fund all of your investments.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 4:59 PM, XMFAlaska wrote:

    Hi folks. Thanks for all your great comments. I'm glad to hear from large banking customers who have no fees; it hasn't been what we've heard from other readers, and it's nice to know there are still some fee-free options at large banks.

    WikiCPA, I do consider the day a success, but not because it took down any large banks. I don't think that was the point. I consider it a success in that it was a social media campaign that mobilized 700,000 people. I find that pretty impressive. We've also had a number of credit unions contact both me directly and the Fool through its various outlets to share their experiences, and the feedback we're getting is that the day was overwhelmingly positive for small banks and credit unions.

    Credit unions may not be for everyone, but neither are big banks. I think the beauty of Bank Transfer Day was that it informed and educated customers, which is something we try to do at the Fool every day.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 5:15 PM, mm5525 wrote:

    What totaly excrement. Hardly anyone transferred funds. This "movement' was an utter failure..

    To those tiny few you thought you could make a difference, good riddance. People with a few bucks in their checking accounts are hardly a bother to the big banks and actually a benefit by leaving since the average checking account costs $300 per year to service. Don't let your $500 account balance kick you on the way out. Let someone else deal with your welfare checks. See ya....

    I wonder how long it will take for them to somehow blame the credit unions for why they have no money to deposit other than their own lack of income potential?

    Stay tuned. It'll only be a matter of time. Citizens sitting around waiting for a check in a tent will always find someone else to blame in a very short amount of time for why money does not magically appear in their account other than what the government puts there.

    Maybe welfare checks need to be paid bi-weekly. Heck, every week. No, every other day. When will it be enough for these miscreants to understand they actually have to make a buck on their own in life?

    Stay tuned. Could be a few months....years... centuries.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 5:57 PM, WikiCPA wrote:


    I see your point. And I am glad that these small banks and credit unions are helping out those who need their services. What confuses me though is why everyone thinks this will cure the problem. Yeah everything might be fine and dandy for now, but the business model doesn't work. Sooner or later won't the cost of maintaining these low balance accounts become a burden on credit unions? What will stop Credit Unions from charging a monthly fee to maintain the overhead costs of a checking account? Big banks had the ability to profit from trading and giving out loans, the credit unions don't have that ability. I don't see the sustainability of the credit union model. At least at the big banks, widespread atms and convenience were given to the price that we paid (or didn't pay).

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 6:01 PM, TheDumbMoney wrote:


    Bank of America MyAccess Checking: Free if you have one $250 auto-deposit per month OR maintain a $1500 balance. So, basically, if you have any job at all, and you deposit your paycheck automatically, which is also easier for you, its free. See here: Free bill-pay, etc., and 18,000 (!!) free ATMs.

    Chase(JPMorgan): Same as above except the minimum once-a-month auto-deposit is $500/month. 16,500 free ATMS. Free bill pay, free online banking, free, etc.

    Citibank Basic Checking: free as long as you use direct deposit, cash withdrawals, or one of a few other options. No minimum balance.

    Wells Fargo: Same as above except free if you use direct deposit in ANY amount, or have $1500 average balance, and only need $100 to open. 12,000 free ATMs, etc., etc.

    That's the top four right there. Thus I say, "some fee-free options," really? Really? You practically have to TRY to pay these banks fees. It's a total commodity business, and they have no economic goodwill. I haven't paid money to a bank in years. And, I have a BofA (formerly MBNA) WorldPoints credit card, which is free, and for which I am given 1 point for every dollar of purchases (and which I pay off every month, thus paying zero interest), and which can be redeemed for a $250 check when I gather 25,000 points, which has happened once since I got the card. So they're paying ME money. Also, Merrill Lynch trading via BofA is also free if you maintain a $25,000 balance in any BofA account.

    Enjoy your credit unions, chumps.


  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 6:45 PM, KingOfPizza wrote:

    My credit union refunds ATM fees up to $20 per month, accepts deposits by mail, and gave me $100 to refinance my auto loan at 2.75%. I've never paid a fee to them in 7 years and they've saved me thousands of dollars. Who wouldn't want that kind of service?

    I also have accounts with other "big banks" but I use them to squirrel away savings where I can't get to it easily.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 7:05 PM, devoish wrote:

    A qualifying direct deposit is a ....

    Well, DTAF, what exactly is a "qualifying direct deposit?

    Is there an "excess activity fee", and if so how much does it cost?

    What is "excess activity"?

    How much is charged to check my balance at the ATM machine?

    What fees are charged when i want to get my money out?

    How much are checks?

    How many days can I go between qualifying direct deposits before I no longer qualify?

    How much does it cost to close my account?

    Do the Wells Fargo free checking.

    Best wishes,


  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 7:12 PM, devoish wrote:


    "As I noted on Monday, individual accounts with moderately low balances -- the type that would have been hit hardest under many of the proposed fees -- don't typically generate much revenue for larger banks". - Molly

    Why do you believe that? It is all those small accounts that are close to losing the qualifying criteria for "free" checking that generate the most fees, them moment there is a slip, even if that slipp is your banks inability to credit your direct deposit to your account in less than three days while being able to debit your account in seconds.

    Best wishes,


  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 7:56 PM, TheDumbMoney wrote:


    You Said: "Well, DTAF, what exactly is a "qualifying direct deposit?"

    Answer: "Qualifying direct deposits can include paychecks, pension payments, Social Security and Supplemental Social Security income payments, and other sources of regular monthly income." Woo. Scary!!! They said "qualifying". Meaningless.

    You Said: "Is there an "excess activity fee", and if so how much does it cost?"

    Answer: Not sure. I use my bank a LOT. No fees. BofA has no excess activity fees on checking accounts, some on savings accounts, but they are avoidable. And if you have a BofA savings account you are a moron because it pays nothing, and INGDirect pays a little under 1%. Ally pays more.

    You said: "How much is charged to check my balance at the ATM machine?"

    Answer: At BofA, where I bank, nothing for 18,000 BofA ATMs.

    You said: "What fees are charged when i want to get my money out?"

    Answer: Zero at 18,000 BofA ATMs.

    You said: "How much are checks?"

    Answer: First of all, checks? Why is anyone still using checks? About $20 for 500 checks. Whoopdedoodely. You mean you actually have to pay for some service? The online bill pay reduces at least 95% of all check usage and is free. I have used it to pay rent, mortgage payments, charitable donations, payments to friends, direct stock purchases, everything. Worried about checks? Stop using them. And save the postage.

    You said: "How many days can I go between qualifying direct deposits before I no longer qualify?"

    Answer: That is everywhere stated. Once a month, assuming one gets at least one paycheck, social security payment or other, per month. Whooo. Tough!

    You said: "How much does it cost to close my account?"

    Answer: I confess, you stumped me on that.

    That's all BofA MyAccess. In California. Here is some info, all fees clearly disclosed: Are overdrafts going to cost you? Yup. Is it going to cost you if your assets are frozen? Yup.

    Steven, how about if you actually looked stuff up rather than responding with misleadingly leading questions? You were really worried about that word "qualifying" weren't you? Kind of cute.


  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 7:59 PM, TheDumbMoney wrote:


    Also as to your later comment, again, let me emphasize that there IS NO minimum balance requirement at these banks as long as you auto-deposit your paycheck or social security check, which one would have to be insane not to do. The minimum balance thing is a canard unless one gets all of one's pay in cash, in which case, let's face it, one can afford to pay some fees because one is likely cheaping out on paying many if not all taxes.


  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 8:02 PM, TheDumbMoney wrote:

    Finally, note to all: I actually have nothing against credit unions. Many credit unions are great. What I am against is saucer-eyed people running around carrying their pitchforks to attack "Big Banks" based on things that are not factually true.


  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2011, at 1:02 AM, TheDumbMoney wrote:

    Do you want to know something that is hilarious?



  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2011, at 1:04 AM, kedens wrote:

    I am concerned with major banks because I don't understand derivatives very well. According to the WSJ big banks have over $700 Trillion in derivatives. Some people say derivatives are a time bomb while others say derivatives are good because they are a risk-management tool. BofA has over $75 Trillion in derivatives. Some people suggest that the FDIC could be liable for this if BofA fails. I don't understand how the FDIC would end up paying for derivatives though (don't they insure bank accounts). At the same time I worry about credit unions because many of them have closed in recent years and if there is trouble with the FDIC, won't the NCUA also run into the same problems. I'm having a hard time figuring out where the safest places to put money are.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2011, at 3:49 AM, annaraven wrote:

    We've been with BofA for 5 years. They've progressively ticked me off worse and worse with their so-called "customer service". (For example, those free Merrill Lynch trades weren't free for us until we protested and had them switch our account from the special "master relationship" account they'd originally set up for us to an actual checking account.) They constantly hit us with fees for wires (including royalties or any stock trades) and foreign atms etc etc. The final straw (besides their planned $5 for atm fees which I'm sure we'd have been exempt from *after* figuring out which hoop to jump through *this time*) was hitting us up with an extra 150 a month for "mortgage protection" that we tried repeatedly to cancel and then not refunding the money after they finally cancelled it 3 months later.

    We have refinanced now - and found out that the mortgage refinance with the new company (lenderfi) was so extremely smoother than the BofA mortgage refinance with our "relationship". We also are in process of switching our bill pay to Ally. It's amazing how much better customer service I get with Ally - oh, and no atm fees *anywhere* including foreign (UNLIKE BofA).

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2011, at 7:30 AM, devoish wrote:


    I used your link to Wells Fargo concerning "qualifying". At Wells, qualifying includes that the "qualifying deposit" is for at least $250 per deposit, which effectively eliminates "free" checking for part time work.

    The requirement also eliminates people who do not get paid regularly, consultants for example.

    Penaltys and fees pile on of you switch jobs and miss two paychecks.

    It costs $1.50 to check your balance at a Wells ATM machine.

    Six transactions. Car, cable, phone, mortgage, visa, supermarket, and its over for you. I guess they get you going, not coming.

    $25. to close your account.

    And no, I don't think Wells should provide free checking services, It also doesn't seem like they should claim they do. And it especiall pisses me off that they charge fees to those with less than $1500 balances to provide "free" to those who have more.

    And BTW, in case you missed it;

    "We may change the accounts and services described in this schedule at any time by adding new terms and conditions or deleting or amending existing terms and conditions. We may also add new accounts or services and convert or discontinue existing accounts or services at any time".

    Pretty binding contract. Like I said months ago. Goodbye C.


    "As I noted on Monday, individual accounts with moderately low balances -- the type that would have been hit hardest under many of the proposed fees -- don't typically generate much revenue for larger banks". - Molly

    Why do you believe that? It is all those small accounts that are close to losing the qualifying criteria for "free" checking that generate the most fees, them moment there is a slip, even if that slipp is your banks inability to credit your direct deposit to your account in less than three days while being able to debit your account in seconds.

    Best wishes,


  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2011, at 8:14 AM, skypilot2005 wrote:

    I've been a credit union member for over 30 years.

    I have commercial bank accounts with minimum balances only so that I can cash and deposit checks locally and for safe deposit boxes.

    Direct deposit your pay and get an ATM card. No need for accounts at BOA, Wells, etc.

    They can "nickle and dime" someone else.

    Take control of your financial future.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2011, at 11:46 AM, TheDumbMoney wrote:


    Yes, as I stated originally, at Wells you have to have a wire in once a month of $250. I bank at BofA and all of my information in my response to you is from there. You are just wrong that $250 auto-deposit once-a-month is onerous. And there is nothing wrong with banks, like any other business, actually charging for some services they provide. If people aren't happy, they can of course switch. And on nationally-media-covered Bank Transfer day, a tiny percentage of 1% did, probably less than the amount of deposits JPMorgan alone has added in the last two months.

    And why shouldn't banks charge more for smaller accounts? Would you expect to pay more or less for buying in bulk than for buying single items? Every account added means more customer servicer reps needed, more branches needed, more computer server space needed, etc. That costs money. It is economically rational that a bank should be happpier about getting a larger fixed deposit in exchange for adding those marginal costs.

    But again, the total deposit numbers really speak for themselves.


  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2011, at 12:40 PM, devoish wrote:

    And why shouldn't banks charge more for smaller accounts? - DTAF

    Why should they get to call it free checking if they are charging more?

    Remember when you asked "So why on earth would I leave Bank of America, except to make a meaningless point that would make my life harder and cost me more money? Why would anybody"?

    Because the terms of the free checking contract, all the terms, not just the minimum $250/ deposit (not per month) mean that very few people with low income and low balances actually get "free" checking.

    And rather than continue to finance the perks people with more money get, through the fees they wind up paying, they switched and good for them.

    Best wishes,


  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2011, at 1:33 PM, TheDumbMoney wrote:

    Steven, they don't call it free checking. You are mis-stating. They are plainly stating the circumstances under which basic checking services are free, and they are dislosing their fees. For what you get, it's a good deal, for rich or poor, including saving on postage and buying checks by being able to use free bill-pay. The fact that OWS protestors first deposited their funds with Wells Fargo, as I linked to above, perfectly encapsulates the value and convenience proposition of the big banks, as does their total deposits. My mother makes $900/month on social security, loves her Chase account, pays bills online, and basically banks for free and saves on postage from not having to buy checks.

    The mere fact that each of these banks provide more than 12,000 ATMs, which they paid for, and which even the smallest depositor can use for free to withdraw money, is so staggeringly positive for the poor that your only response to it can be to minimize it and demand that the evil banks set the bar even higher. You are being an ideologue.



  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2011, at 4:05 PM, anonymousa wrote:


    I think you are the ideologue here... anyone who somehow claims its "easier" to find a BofA atm instead of a credit union atm, is operating with an idealogical motivation and not a factual one.

    The same can be said of your breathless hype concerning ease-of-use for large bank paperless atms... Cute 'n all, but at least in my town of 100k people, the first no-deposit slip atms were at the CREDIT UNIONS.

    I would say the same exact thing about my credit unions online software, which hands down beats the Wells Fargo system I used to be stuck with. Not only is the system just as easy and has free bill-pay and transfers

    ...BUT its noticeably more detailed and accurate too, something which is very important to me. I have suffered for Wells Fargo online mistakes or lack of transparency, and I was heartened to see that my CU credit card online software especially, is a marked improvement over my old big bank.

    DTAF you are right, if you follow every single deposit and withdrawal rule for every single private bank you use, yes you might be lucky enough to have a free checking account most months.

    However thanks to BofA epic fails, no-fee checking isn't really on the table anymore anyways, at least in the public mind. What the CUs are winning on right now, is a reduction in the number and size of the hoops one must jump through to keep your free checking. Its a movement away from a rule-based banking experience and a return of customer-service based banking.

    I can verify this in my own life again and again. I travel internationally and with WF regularly experienced hellish fraud protection locks of my accounts at the least opportune moments. While yes it would only require one extremely long and disruptive phone call to sort out, it was always still a huge PITA, and their software never seemed to adapt to my spending habits in over a decade.

    However my credit union never seems to have these problems or is able to sort it out with one 30 second email, another real and verifiable improvement in my life with a CU. They also cost less in international fees as far as I can tell.

    With the COOP network having several 1000 more atms than some large private banks now, and with even some big banks like US Bank (with those large red/blue signs lol) going the way of the free atm, there is NO reason not to do your checking with a credit union at this point.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2011, at 5:57 PM, TheDumbMoney wrote:

    anonymousa, because you disagree with me, that does not make me an ideologue. As I have said above, I can't speak to the Wells Fargo as neither I nor anyone I'm close with banks there. I am just speaking from personal experience, as BofA has been great for me, and Chase has been great for my mother. And I do not try particularly hard to avoid fees: ALL I do is I have my regular paycheck set up for auto-deposit, and I pay bills online, I don't overdraft, easy-peasy, my checks are digitally imaged for me, that's about it. It's not rocket science. Also, I always notify my bank before I go abroad. Might want to consider doing that. A 30-second call BEFORE you go will save you the trouble of either a PITA sorting it out later or a 30-second email to your credit union while you're abroad. I for one am grateful for the fraud protection, and a modicum of communication on the part of consumers like you and I goes a long way, too, instead of just assuming the software will adapt to your spending habits. I have never had a fraud lock while traveling abroad.

    As I also stated above, I have nothing against credit unions. But I know both from personal experience the personal banking experience of the banks is simply not remotely as bad as....ideologues make out. Maybe Wells is bad, I haven't banked there. Maybe I have been lucky. But them's the facts. Where I live, BofA ATMs are a heckuva lot easier to find than CO-OP ATMs, and they are extremely visable and all look the same, increasing their recognizability.


  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2011, at 9:30 PM, anonymousa wrote:


    I'm looking forward to the day when people see Moneypass, or US Bank, or CO-OP network and start showing brand loyalty too

    I'm looking forward to the day when you "start seeing" US Bank branches around town, those are also fee-free... Maybe you should switch big banks to the more competitive one

    And anyways, if you've never dealt with fraud protection internationally than you have no idea how much worse private banks are than CUs on this issue... having dealt with both I know and appreciate the difference.

    Maybe you misunderstood my comment about travel notifications, the thirty second email is enough for my credit union beforehand or after, where as a travel notification for WF required a phone call or branch visit automatically- thats part of my whole point

    But please keep listing all THE IMPORTANT RULES for you poor B of A customers- a little funny you don't seem to understand how you're continuously reinforcing the corporate bank stereotypes and the reasons people are leaving.

    Its odd how you keep mentioning you never use the credit union you belong to. I think its time you acknowledge that you have less experience on this issue than other people, and would leave the ideology to folks who have experienced both sides. If you don't use or understand a credit union deposit account than I'm not sure your opinion is particularly valid here.

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2011, at 11:47 AM, TheDumbMoney wrote:

    anonymousa, what are you talking about? Are we having the same conversation? I never said I belonged to a credit union. I'm also not trying to say banks are better. I'm saying BofA and Chase are not remotely as bad as people make out. I've never paid any of these fees. With BofA I've made a 30-second phone call, that's it, before leaving, and traveled abroad multiple times without a fraud alert triggering. Your first post makes abundantly clear that your fraud alerts triggered because you failed to tell your bank you were going anywhere, and then counted on their software to figure out your spending habits. My opinion is perfectly valid because I'm not presenting myself as an expert on credit unions. I am explaining that a lot of the anger at banks is BS. And, not only that, because their deposits are still so high, the anger is to some extent a media and ideologue creation, rather than something that is reflected in the reality of their businesses.


  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2011, at 4:02 PM, UFOFred wrote:

    Concerning Bank Transfer Day, I could not participate. Why? I switched about 25 years ago.

    Concerning fees -- after my mother-in-law died, my wife went to a Key (should be called "Fee") Bank to close the account. This was an account her parents had maintained for over 50 years with that bank (including its predecessor bank). When she asked for a teller's check, they wanted to charge a fee. My wife took the withdrawal in cash.

  • Report this Comment On November 14, 2011, at 9:56 AM, kwl1763 wrote:

    This like most anything in life has no right answer. People are different and have different needs.

    I personally bank with BofA and am very happy. I am on the road a ton and having an ATM almost anywhere is great. Online billpay is also great. I have a direct deposit so everything is free. I have also moved every few years for employment opportunities and have never had to mess with doing anything except updating my address. No switching banks, no finding a new CU, etc.

    If I was part time employed, a consultant, never travelled, was set in my town, etc my needs may be totally different and I would want a credit union.

    But for me, I have access to thousands of ATMs and branches everywhere for free (including partnerships in foreign countries), free online billpay, access to check images for 6 months (easy to print out and store as I do for when I might need more then 6 months)

    I don't think I have ever paid a fee in the 7 years I've had them. My point here is not an advertisement for BofA. it really is that different people have different needs. i would not expect everyone to be served best by BofA or the account I have but it sure works great and free for me. Others have different needs and they should bank somewhere else.

  • Report this Comment On November 14, 2011, at 8:03 PM, XMFAlaska wrote:

    Hi everybody. Thanks so much for your wonderful comments and for sharing your experiences.

    WikiCPA: I agree with you. There are many, many problems facing our banking system, and Bank Transfer Day won't fix any of them. I think that's a really great point of the sustainability of credit unions and it's something I'll look into further. I know that many of the fees facing large banks that are passed onto consumers, don't apply to smaller banks, but some deeper digging is warranted.

    Kedens: Here's a great article about derivatives that was published today. Might be helpful?

    Devoish: That's a great point about people who are paid irregularly. As a freelancer, my income comes in batches, rather than a two week interval, and is spread out through business and personal accounts. As a result, aside from paying my regular monthly bills, my banking can be inconsistent. I'd be a prime target for fees if I wasn't at a bank that had none.

    DTAF: I agree with you. Pitchforks are bad.

    KWL1763: Thanks for your comments. I spent several years living on both coasts, and during that time, being a customer of large bank was necessary for exactly the reasons you described; including access to lots of ATMs, and branches in case I needed something in person.

    If I'm understanding everybody, it seems like we can agree on the following:

    1. Banks or credit unions aren't all good or all bad

    2. Bank selection should be made based on your individual needs

    3. Customer service goes a long way

    4. It's important to understand how and why you'll be charged

    and lastly (and don't roast me here) Bank Transfer Day was a good thing for the people who took part in it, because it empowered them to make the best choice FOR THEM about their money.

    Now, a show of hands. And be honest, please. Who on this thread works for a banking institution, be it large or a credit union?

  • Report this Comment On November 14, 2011, at 8:18 PM, devoish wrote:


    Mechanic, business owner, now a farmer.

    Best wishes,


  • Report this Comment On November 15, 2011, at 12:21 PM, XMFAlaska wrote:

    Thanks Steven.

  • Report this Comment On November 15, 2011, at 12:30 PM, kwl1763 wrote:

    I agree customer service goes a long way but I don't need much of it therefore i don't want to pay a ton for it. I'm fairly independent. Talk to customer service maybe one a year and go in a branch maybe 4-5 times a year. What I really wish they would do is link fees more with actual costs. If you are low maintenance with a decent balance they are making tons on you while the high maintenance low balance accounts are highly unprofitable. Needs to be a better way to match fees with costs.

    No bank employment for me. Electrical engineer turned corporate finance guy.

    I agree it was good to bring awareness and if people truly switched for the right reasons (they did a review and found switching would be their best most cost effective option) then I fully agree it was a great thing.

  • Report this Comment On November 15, 2011, at 4:07 PM, WikiCPA wrote:

    Thank you for the discussion TMFAlaska. Just to let you know, I work for a private accounting firm serving local businesses and high net worth individuals. I admit I favor big bank institutions, but not for the great service, rates, or products, but for their vast lending ability to enable me and others to purchase real estate and expand.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2011, at 1:22 PM, XMFAlaska wrote:

    Thanks WikiCPA, that makes complete sense. Incidentally, per your suggestion, I've looked closer into the sustainability of the CU business model, and have spoken with a CUNA rep and local CUs. Will be writing a follow-up article soon.

  • Report this Comment On November 18, 2011, at 2:40 PM, interdependent wrote:

    I live in Seattle. In 2008 I moved my money to a small local credit union because the WAMU collapse taught me that bigger is not better. Friends and their families' lives were changed, The repercussions were felt for months all over the city.

    I moved my money to the smallest credit union I could find with a branch nearby. I'm just a small customer, a self-employed professional in the neighborhood; but I keep a nice cash cushion in my accounts. In return, they invest in my community and make loans to people I know. I could take a seat on the board. It's all neighbors and local businesses.They know my name when I walk in the door.

    The credit union does what I need it to do, and nothing more. And that's the best part.

    For that same reason whenever possible I buy local organic food at small markets. It costs more. No, it's not more convenient. It takes more time. But I know what's in it, where it came from, and sometimes who farmed it. No derivatives or hidden toxic assets. I feel good about the food I eat, because I know it was raised by people who work in a right relationship with the land, generating a sustainable source of nourishment (the soil) and feeding farmers as well.

    What does this have to do with banking? Check out Wendell Berry's collection of essays "What Matters? Economics for Renewed Commonwealth" for a carefully thought out philosophy of right relationships that all bank CEOs should be required to read.

    I'll pay an extra percentage fee for that knowledge. My credit Union currently offers me a far better deal than Chase. But if it should someday cost me extra, still I know what my money in the Credit Union is doing. If my credit union gets too big to fail, I'll find another smaller one. I don't want to free checking from an institution that carries the power and probability of taking down our economy and wrecking people's lives every time Wall Street fumbles.

    Thanks Molly for the link to the article on Derivatives! I look forward to your next article on Credit Unions.

    When WAMU came down, it changed people's lives in the midst of a large, very wealthy city. But who lost? The deal was done in a single night and now Chase is bigger. Now it's just a footnote in history, because the banking system resisted change. Big banks can't change.

    So I did.

    Think global, buy local. Switch to a neighborhood credit union.

  • Report this Comment On November 18, 2011, at 2:41 PM, interdependent wrote:

    And to any big bank customers who really do believe Transfer Day was a failure, I don't want to try to change your mind. But at the least you might say thanks once a month when you get your statement, to the 700,000 former bank customers who helped you save $5 a month on your debit card.

  • Report this Comment On November 18, 2011, at 2:52 PM, devoish wrote:

    "I agree it was good to bring awareness and if people truly switched for the right reasons (they did a review and found switching would be their best most cost effective option) then I fully agree it was a great thing. - kwl1763

    Thats only one reason, but it is not what I think is the "right" reason.


    Well said,

    Best wishes,


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