8:59am

Tue November 8, 2011
Business and the Economy

Kentuckians Leaving Banks for Credit Unions

A national effort to fight big banks led thousands of Kentuckians to move their money over the last month.The Bank Transfer Day movement encouraged Americans to withdraw their money from institutions such as JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America and put it in locally-owned banks or not-for-profit credit unions.

The movement was driven by frustration with the announcement that several large banks would charge customers for using debit cards. It combined with the existing anger about banks’ role in the financial crisis and gained the support of many Occupy Wall Street protesters.

The official day for the transfers was advertised as November 5th, but participants began withdrawing in the month prior. The Credit Union National Association reported Monday that 80 percent of credit unions saw an increase in membership in the last month. About 650,000 new customers signed up for accounts and transferred $4.5 billion.

“We’ve never been able to really break out into the common ideas or mainstream. Maybe this is it. Maybe we’ve been able to do it this time,” says Credit Union National Association spokesman Pat Keefe. 

Keefe says his group did not promote the event, but is certainly reaping benefits.

“A bank exists to make a profit for its shareholders. That’s fine. That’s the American way. It’s made this country strong. It’s a difference in philosophy. As my boss likes to say, banks use people to make money, credit unions use money to help people,” he says.

Estimates show that 5,300 new credit union customers were signed up in Kentucky between September 29th and November 2nd. Keefe expects the transfers to continue.