MINNEAPOLIS -- Anger over proposed bank fees has sparked a Facebook grassroots movement dubbed "Bank Transfer Day."
In September, Bank of America announced it would charge a $5 monthly fee for debit card use which it later rescinded. But that move kicked off a storm of protest that coincided with the Occupy Wall Street movement which has focused much of its anger at big banks after the financial collapse of 2008.
So on Saturday, some Americans, fed up with fees from national for-profit banks, moved their money into smaller community banks or non-profit credit unions as part of "Bank Transfer Day."
The Affinity Plus Credit Union near the University of Minnesota campus was packed Saturday morning, staying open beyond its noon closing time to help new and regular customers.
Kate Christopherson of Minneapolis was opening a new account. She said, "I just finished taking a financial literacy class and we learned about credit unions versus banks and I just like the set up its more democratic I feel like the members have more of a say."
David Brauch of Minneapolis was doing the same. He said, "They're not there to please investors so they're not looking for the maximum profit."
November 5th was named "Bank Transfer Day" by a California woman, Kristen Christian, who just asked her own Facebook friends to transfer their money out of big banking by that day.
Within a month, however, it turned into a national movement with 53,000 likes on her page. And in the past few weeks, it appears to have helped fuel definite change.
Affinity Plus Credit Union Minneapolis manager, Tim Johnson, said, "Last year around this time frame we would see maybe 700 people opening new accounts with us. Right now we're seeing around 2000."
Big banks like Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo have remained mum on whether they've seen more people closing accounts in recent weeks. But Johnson can't say enough about what his credit union offers.
He said, "This time last year, if you used ATMs that were outside of our network there was a $2.00 fee. We got rid of that. This in a day and age when a lot of institutions are trying to figure out how they can add more fees."
You'd think the long wait at credit unions and small banks on Saturday would annoy long time account holders. But at least a few of them didn't mind at all.
Member Zenzi Wilson of Minneapolis said, "It's a good thing because we can no longer continue to give our money to the people who already have all the wealth." Her boyfriend, Larry Louisiana, also of Minneapolis said, "I want my money to work for me not for somebody else."
Transferring from a big bank to a smaller institution isn't for everyone. Some fans of the KARE 11 Facebook page said they prefer banking with the larger banks.
If you do want to switch, do your research first. Some credit unions have membership requirements. And fees vary among all institutions. Then, don't close your old account until automatic billings and direct deposits are straightened out and all other items have cleared.
(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)