Last year I moved my money. I made the move in response to a campaign started by Arianna Huffington at the end of 2009. She urged that we stop supporting big banks (especially too-big-to-fail banks) and start supporting local banks and credit unions. I moved my money to a credit union (I chose Gateway Metro Credit Union), and I’ve never looked back. Credit unions are non-profit; they are service oriented, offering low fees or no fees. My new credit union offered me great customer service. In my city of St. Louis, credit unions offer you the use of each others’ ATMs without fees. When I asked what the minimum balance was for my new checking account, the woman from the credit union said, “There is no minimum balance.” I had been struggling with my bank for 3 weeks to set up an HSA savings account, for which it was going to charge me $25/year. The credit union had the account set up in 15 minutes and is not charging me any fee. The credit union offers online check paying and other account services comparable to those offered by the bank I formerly used. I am much happier doing my banking at a local credit union, especially thanks to the superior customer service.
Bottom line: If you are still keeping your money at a big bank, there are many good reasons for moving it. Think about taking it local, especially to a credit union. It turns out that after some of the big banks starting imposing new fees last month, there has been a mini-stampede away from the big banks and toward credit unions:
The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) reports that a whopping 650,000 Americans have joined credit unions since Sept. 29 — the date that Bank of America announced it would start charging a $5 monthly debit fee, a move it backed down on this week. To put that in perspective, there were only 600,000 new members for credit unions in all of 2010. “These 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 Bill Cheney.