Last month, the Boeing Employee Credit Union’s financial center in Everett added 1,182 new members.
That’s about 200 percent of what it would normally expect.
“It’s pretty amazing,” spokesman Todd Pietzsch said of BECU’s growth in recent months.
Northwest Plus Credit Union based in Everett also has seen a rush of new members. It opened 170 new accounts in October. In just the first four days of November, it added 44 new members.
At Coastal Community Bank in Everett, new accounts are up 43 percent so far this year.
About 34 percent of Coastal’s new accounts came from Bank of America, said CEO Eric Sprenk. Others include Wells Fargo, Union Bank and Chase.
“It’s pretty evident that we were the recipient of the big banks’ malfeasance,” Sprenk said.
Many people are leaving big banks to go to credit unions or community banks these days, either because of concerns about the role the mega-banks played in the recession or, more recently, their attempts to add new fees.
“We’ve had a lot of people calling and asking, ‘Do you charge for debit cards?’ ” said Cathy Henry of Northwest Plus. It doesn’t.
Because of new laws in Congress, many of the larger banks planned to charge fees for using their debit cards. Bank of America announced it would charge $5 a month for those who used the service.
But Bank of America and other banks abandoned the fees amid lots of consumer outrage. Many customers threatened to find another bank. And some of them did.
“I think there’s a tipping point that is different for everyone,” BECU’s Pietzsch said of the decision to switch banks.
Pietzsch said talking to customers and people in general tells him that many are “really upset” over added fees and big Wall Street bonuses.
Henry said people also are concerned about checking accounts now that many of the larger banks have eliminated free checking. Northwest Plus has a checking account that pays 2 percent interest on balances if customers meet certain rules. She said the 44 people who joined the credit union in early November opened 45 checking accounts.
Sprenk agreed that fees are a concern, but he said people also aren’t crazy about the big aspect of big banks.
“People are saying they want to be treated like a human being,” he said. “They want a bank that delivers a service, not a product.”
Pietzsch said the move to BECU started in August, grew in September and was most significant last month. “We added 16,000 new members in October alone,” he said, adding 6,000 to 7,000 new members is a more typical month for BECU companywide.
He said he thought the debit card issue pushed a lot of people “over the edge.”
On Nov. 5, credit unions across the country participated in bank transfer day. That day, 11,430 people in Washington joined credit unions, which took in $2.9 million in new deposits. Nationwide, some 40,000 people started accounts at credit unions with some $80 million, according to the Credit Union National Association.
Whether the switching banks trend will continue is anybody’s guess.
“It’s not as hard as people think,” Pietzsch said. “It takes about a 45-day window, and you’re off and running again.”
Mike Benbow is business editor for The Herald; 425-339-3459, email@example.com.