- Faith & Family
Big banks across the U.S. have been under fire in recent weeks and South Florida is no exception. A growing trend of dissatisfied customers have begun closing their bank accounts and switching to credit unions, angry over escalating profits by bank executives and additional fees eating into their pockets. Marla Ferreira, 49, senior vice-president of planning and development for the Dade County Federal Credit Union (DCFCU) says she has seen a rise in new customers at their downtown facility.
“We have seen a steady increase in new members since the Occupy movement started and have seen a definite increase in the opening of checking accounts,” she said. “As an example, last Saturday we opened three times more accounts than on a typical Saturday. Consumers are very unhappy with the high fees banks are charging. We can provide many if not all of the same products and services as a bank but at little or no fees.”
Ferreira noted that in October, DCFCU witnessed a 22 percent increase in new checking accounts compared to September and a 29 percent rise in new members.
“On Bank Transfer Day, November 5th, 38 new members joined our credit union,” she said. “Those numbers are indicative of customer dissatisfaction.”
Customers make the switch
Mark Horne, 35, of Liberty City, said that he is thinking about making the switch to banking with a credit union.
“Since I can remember I have always used the traditional banking route,” he said. “But now the banks are just getting out of control. People are fed up with these extra fees it takes for us to withdraw our own money. I think in the near future banks will be a thing of the past. Places like Chase and Wells Fargo will not be thriving like they are now.”
Brenda Thomas, 55, of North Miami, has been banking with credit unions her whole life and is happy about the movement sweeping the country.
“It’s about time people took notice that banking with banks is not a good idea,” she said. “With all the hidden fees and the fees you know about, it is a wonder that people aren’t going broke before they even withdraw their money. Honestly, with the economy the way it is you would be better off sticking your money under your mattress like my grandmother used to do.”
Earlier this month Occupy protests targeted Bank of America in Miami. Protesters gathered outside the Stephen P. Clark Government Center on November 1st and marched to the downtown Bank of America (BOA) headquarters on Flagler Street to fight against proposed maintenance fees BOA planned to charge its customers. It appears their voices were heard — BOA said it is dropping its plan to charge customers $5 a month for making purchases with their debit cards.
According to a report from the Credit Union National Association, credit unions nationwide reported that 650,000 new accounts were opened in the month of October while $4.5 billion was moved out of major banks. In comparison, in 2010, credit unions nationwide reported that 600,000 new accounts were opened for the entire year.
By Randy Grice