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A Credit Union Exec’s Tough Talk for Bank Transfer Day

Nov. 2, 2011
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Bank Transfer Day is an organized abandonment of big banks for the fee-free sanctuaries of credit unions and local banking options. So why would Troy Hall, the Chief Operations Officer of the South Carolina Federal Credit Union, condemn it as inane spectacle and the misappropriation of historical events in the guise of a revolutionary strike against Wall Street?

Because people shouldn’t need to be told when to manage their finances. The time to transfer to a credit union is—and has always been—now.

The growing malcontent

With the latest federally mandated imposition of bank regulations (aka the Durbin Amendment), banks are searching for new strategies to increase revenue. Losing money to curtailed debit interchange fees, checking accounts have declined in profitability, leaving a gaping hole in bank earnings.

Weeks ago, a number banks were toying with the idea of instituting monthly debit fees (generally $3-5 a month or $36-60 a year). In all likelihood, this was less an attempt to garner revenue through fees and more a mechanism to cleanse themselves of unprofitable customers and steer folks toward credit cards and prepaid debit cards. The unanimous outrage that ensued sent banks into whimpering retreat, tails between their legs.

Banks cut their losses

Chase and Wells Fargo were in the process of testing debit card fees in select regions, but neither plans to continue the fees beyond the testing period. Bank of America was pretty adamant about going forward with its $5-a-month debit usage fee (met with enormous opposition), but after a period of failed mollification through the introduction of fee-dodging options, they finally adhered to reason and hoisted the white flag.

It will take more than an apologetic smile to clear the water. Customers are still angry, still peeved, still feeling a little ruffled from the clumsy mishandling. Bygones will not be bygones (because, more likely than not, they’re not quite bygone). As checking accounts become less and less attractive, consumers are recurrently reminded that big banks don’t always have their best interests at heart.

Cue Bank Transfer Day

Bank Transfer Day is a collaborative jumping ship from big banks to the life rafts of credit unions and local banks. Using the 5th of November—Guy Fawkes Day, kindly delivered to the American consciousness by Hollywood—as its rallying point, people are planning a collective migration to better financial options.

Troy Hall, known in the blogosphere by his menacing moniker “Tough-talking Troy,” says the recent endeavors of Occupy Wall Street and the organization of Bank Transfer Day have, if nothing else, “rejuvenated the conversation” about credit unions. Credit unions have a specific role in the world of finance. Unlike big banks, they are not profit-driven and do not aim to provide universal blanket programs for maximum consumer uptake. Instead, they localize, customizing the banking experience to meet the immediate demands of locality.

Also unlike big banks, credit unions were not affected directly affected by the Durbin Amendment, which exempts financial institutions with less than $10 billion in assets. Credit unions are owned by their customers, and many offer free, high-yield and rewards checking accounts. They pride themselves in the care they afford their members. Because they’re not-for-profit, credit unions are able to offer many of the same services and programs as banks—credit cards, deposit accounts, loans, mortgages—but with more consumer-friendly terms.

Will you participate?

For all his tough talking, Troy isn’t exactly opposed to Bank Transfer Day. He’s disheartened by its perceived necessity. “You don’t need someone to tell you the day to transfer your money.” He urges people to take care of their finances without requiring a broadly organized effort. Credit unions offer a simpler, kinder way to maintain your money. Troy stresses the straightforward honesty of credit unions. “When we say simplicity, we mean that.”

Though it’s sad to contemplate the American necessity for widespread approval before individuals will engage in such a simple task of self-betterment, Bank Transfer Day does have its merits. For some people, finance is football, but for most of us, it’s more akin to laundry. Bank Transfer Day gets people excited about what is an otherwise mundane and tiresome task. It also provides a forum for educating people about their options beyond big banks.

Whether you do it today, tomorrow or on the 5th, see what your local credit union has to offer. You can check find one using our credit union finder, and if you’re passionate about transferring on the 5th, take a look at our list of credit unions offering extended hours this Saturday.

Credit union execs: want your voice to be heard? Shoot us an email at [email protected].