Students find alternatives to big banks

Over the past two months, credit unions across the United States have seen a dramatic increase in membership and deposits.

The Credit Union National Association reported Nov. 15 that 700,000 people have joined a credit union within the past month. CUNA also stated that the new members brought in roughly $4.5 billion dollars in new deposits.

Also, credit unions have seen 700 percent more traffic in October 2011 than what was recorded one year ago, according to the National Association of Federal Credit Unions.

A Facebook campaign, titled “Bank Transfer Day,” prompted the switch to credit unions and small banks Nov. 5. At the time, the page had more than 50,000 likes. This movement was targeted mostly toward college students, but also toward people who dislike the services at their bank in general.

The Bank Transfer Day Facebook page stated, “If we shift our funds from the for-profit banking institutions in favor of not-for-profit credit unions before this date, we will send a clear message that conscious consumers won’t support companies with unethical business practices.”

CUNA also reported that credit unions brought in 40,000 new members, as well as adding $80 million in savings account funds and $90 million in new loans on Bank Transfer Day alone.

Derek Wynne, senior business management major, switched from Regions Bank to his local credit union last month.

“The main reason I switched banks was the newly instated check card fee that was going into effect,” Wynne said. “Being a college student, it would be hard to justify a $48-a-year fee for a service that was free before.”

Although Regions Bank retracted their check card fee Oct. 31, they still modified their account types to allow for extra fees.

“With the new check card fee, my bank, Regions, changed types of accounts over as well, which made my account get charged $10 a month for not having at least $500 in direct deposits each month,” Wynne said.

Wynne said he believes these factors have played a big role in why people are leaving their big banks.

 “My new bank, Old Hickory Credit Union, offers free banking and a free check card,” Wynne said. “In addition to that, they offer promotions for various months, such as this month they are allowing you to buy Carmike movie tickets for very cheap.”

While some students are looking for alternatives to bigger banks, smaller, local banks are also being considered.

Senior Jameson Young recently switched from a small bank, which was recently purchased by a bigger bank, to First National Bank of Tennessee, which has seven branches in Tennessee.

“I had been meaning to switch for a while since I don’t have a bank in Putnam County,” Young said. “The main catalyst was when they were bought out by a bigger bank.”

While considering which bank to go to, Young said convenience plays a big role.

“There is definitely more personal service. I’ve always found that smaller banks don’t have nearly all the restrictions as big banks do and they have less personal charges,” Young said.

Wynne agreed with Young and said, “Just walking into my new bank, it seems like I am more welcomed, whereas at Regions I felt like just an account number.”