According to the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), federal credit unions added 650,000 members in the month preceding the November 5 Bank Transfer Day instigated by the Occupy protests, and the trend did not skip Santa Barbara. The branch manager of KeyPoint Credit Union said in the two weeks leading up to November 5, new customers opened accounts at a 200-percent higher rate than normal. Russ Llewellyn of Kinecta Federal Credit Union said that a lot of customers have walked in to inquire about their services, but a lesser amount have taken the trouble to actually move their money. Steve La Grange, manager of The Golden 1 Credit Union branch on Calle Real also reported increased account openings, but could not produce the actual numbers before press time.
CUNA’s count begins on September 29 when Bank of America announced that it would charge a five dollar monthly fee for debit card users, another strong impetus for patrons to transfer their money. (Bank of America has since rescinded this fee.) Jeff DeVine, president and CEO of American Riviera Bank, not a credit union but a local community bank, says that he has opened approximately 20 more accounts than normal each of the past two months. He thinks the increased business has more to do with “a general dissatisfaction with larger banks” than Occupy Wall Street. He said there are three distinct advantages to banking locally. Money stays in the community (through loans and donations), bank employees know their customers by name, and community banks do not “nickel and dime” their clients with fees to boost revenues.
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