More big bank customers jumping to credit unions, reports say


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Even as big banks begin to back off proposed fees, disgruntled consumers may be jumping ship to credit unions, according to new reports this week.

The Credit Union National Assn. said that about 650,000 customers have opened new accounts at credit unions last month –- more than the 600,000 total who joined in 2010. That equates to $4.5 billion in new savings accounts over about four weeks.


The trade group attributed much of the growth to customer flight from institutions such as Bank of America Corp., which announced a new $5 debit-card fee in late September only to claw back the plan this week after heavy consumer backlash.

A poll Thursday from research firm Harris Interactive found that Bank of America customers are more likely to abandon the company than patrons of other banks and credit unions.

Nine percent of consumers using Bank of America said they were “not at all likely” to continue, compared with 6% of Wells Fargo & Co. users, 3% of JPMorgan Chase & Co. users and 2% of credit union users.

Fifteen percent of Bank of America customers said they don’t feel valued by the bank, compared with just 0.5% of credit union customers. Three quarters of credit union users said they had a “trustworthy relationship” with their institution, compared with a quarter of Bank of America customers.

But customers should be careful about bank-hopping, said Carol Kaplan, a spokeswoman with the American Bankers Assn. Other institutions, including credit unions, could also raise their fees or change their policies in the future, she said.

“Just as your cable or phone company has many different plans to choose from, your bank may have a new product that better meets your needs,” she said.


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-- Tiffany Hsu