Daily Dupaco

Friday, November 04, 2011

Big bank backlash sparks consumer exodus to credit unions

Thousands of people have awakened to the advantages of credit unions and are prepared to say goodbye to their bank.

In a social media phenomenon, more than 75,000 people have committed to leave their large banks in favor of credit unions on or before Nov. 5. "Bank Transfer Day," sparked by Bank of America's $5 monthly debit card fee, was started by a Los Angeles art gallery owner who was fed up with her bank.

Dupaco Community Credit Union is a co-operative with nonprofit status, so it can offer its members better services and products--like free debit cards and checking accounts--putting people before profit.

Tami Rechtenbach, director of member services at Dupaco, says those kinds of free services, ultimately allowing people to keep and grow more of their money, should make worthwhile any minor inconvenience of switching an account.

"It's a lot easier than people think it's going to be," she says. "If they work with people they trust who will walk side by side with them like we will, we can take a lot of the fear out of switching."

Dupaco offers a unique, hands-on approach to helping prospective members make the switch. Here's what you can expect:

  1. Come prepared. Bring your three most recent bank statements and bills from businesses that are authorized to directly debit your account. "The scariest hurdle for people is turning around all of their automatic payments," Rechtenbach says. "But if you come with those bills in hand, we can help get that prepared for you."
  2. Open your new account. Also, order your checks and debit card so you have the tools in hand to access your funds when your payroll starts depositing into the new account.
  3. Ask your employer to reroute your direct deposit. It might take one or more pay cycles for the change to take effect.
  4. Keep your old account open. Leave it open for at least 30 days until you are receiving direct deposit into your new account and are sure that there are no outstanding checks or automatic debits that need to clear. Rechtenbach recommends keeping $300 to $400 in the account during the transition.  
  5. Expect value beyond freebies. If you can give Dupaco about 45 minutes when you open your new account, you'll come out with more than a new financial institution. (If you don't have that much time, that's OK, too.)  When you open your account, a Dupaco employee will pull your credit report and help you understand what's on there, talk to you about your credit score and offer ways to improve your score. Dupaco also will review your debt and interest rates, and determine whether restructuring your payments would save you money. "When you leave, hopefully we're putting you in a better overall financial position," Rechtenbach says. "We've saved members thousands of dollars with our Money Makeovers by helping them save over the long haul."
  6. Close your old account. When you no longer need your old account, write out a check for your remaining balance and deposit it into your new account. Then, call the financial institution and follow its procedures for closing out the account. 
  7. Find your credit union away from home. Many credit unions, like Dupaco, participate in a shared branching network. It offers members thousands of credit union locations nationwide so that they can perform everyday transactions wherever they go.

Consumers don't need to wait for a "declared" date like Bank Transfer Day to move their money to a credit union, says Rechtenbach.

"Every day, Dupaco aims to help people improve their financial futures--no matter what banks do-- good, bad or otherwise," she says. "That's our mission."

By Emily Kittle

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