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Angry bank clients to switch Nov. 5

By Claes Bell, CFA · Bankrate.com
Monday, October 24, 2011
Posted: 3 pm ET

Tired of all the new fees popping up at large national banks?

There's a bank protest afoot that doesn't involve camping, picketing or being gawked at by the national media. It's called "Bank Transfer Day," and it's a social-media driven movement started by art gallery owner Kristin Christian. It aims to convince bank customers angered by new fees to move their money en masse to small banks or credit unions on Nov. 5.

The movement has largely been orchestrated through Facebook, where the page has nearly 24,000 likes and numerous comments left by supporters and critics alike. Christian herself has been careful to keep the movement nonpartisan and distance it from the Occupy Wall Street protests happening in metro areas all over the country.

Last week Tess Vigeland of American Public Media's excellent Marketplace radio show interviewed Christian:

CHRISTIAN: Well, after 13 years of abuse by Bank of America, everything from severe fees for a severe lack of services to having my funds frozen at any given moment. The final straw came when my former supervisor posted to his Facebook page, as a status, "Bank of America's charging $5."

VIGELAND: And that was the $5 fee for debit cards.

CHRISTIAN: Mmhmm. I don't tend to just believe what I read. So I did call a representative and spoke to them and asked them for the exact details of this new fee structure. And I was very disappointed, to say the least. At that point, I began researching. When I found credit unions, I was floored. Lower rates, any fees to join usually go to charity -- they really do make an effort to reinvest in local communities both through charities and through offering low-interest rate loans to independent citizens and small-to-medium size businesses.

VIGELAND: I know one of the questions that has been asked is whether this is tied to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

CHRISTIAN: Absolutely in no way. There's been a lot of confusion on that. While I do appreciate the enthusiasm that Occupy Wall Street has put into Bank Transfer Day, I don't personally condone the means of which they approach situations. I don't believe that people should go in large groups to banks to close their accounts, bringing signage and disrespecting the bank employees. Because when you opened your account, I know you didn't have signage and you spoke frankly and respectfully to the employee who assisted you.

I think Christian is right that a good way for bank customers to make their displeasure about new fees heard is through moving their accounts to local institutions, which often offer more competitive pricing and a more personalized approach to client care.

That being said, deciding where to keep your checking account isn't a decision that should be taken lightly, and financial decisions born of emotion rather than cold analysis rarely turn out. It might feel good to tell your bank to take their checking account and shove it, but be sure that short-term satisfaction isn't soured by the realization that you really need some of the services your old bank offered, and your new institution isn't prepared to provide them. Every financial institution has its pluses and minuses, community banks included.

I think consumers would benefit from taking some time to really look at the details of the checking accounts they're considering, including fee schedules, and figure out who can meet their needs at the lowest cost.

That's not an argument for checking account apathy; if you're unhappy with your current arrangement, a checking account change is a good idea. I'm just arguing that objective analysis is better than knee-jerk reaction when it comes to key financial decisions.

What do you think? Is Bank Transfer Day a good idea? Do you plan to switch accounts soon?

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45 Comments
Michelle
November 02, 2011 at 10:03 am

I have not set foot in a Bank of America since 2006. I did not have an account with them however my employer did. When I tried to cash my paycheck I was told I'd have to pay $5 to cash the check there. I refused to pay $5 to cash a Bank of America payroll check.

josue lozano
November 02, 2011 at 12:25 am

I had my money in bank of america and got tired of all the charges so I switch to san francisco fire credit union and I'm very happy there when ever I use an atm from another bank they give me the money back that the other banks charge for using there atm's they are very freandly there everyone knows my name I would never move from there.

David
November 01, 2011 at 6:25 pm

If people do change to smaller banks or credit unions on November 5, they should be sure the institution they are moving to doesn't have the same kinds of fees. I belong to Arizona Federal Credit Union and two months ago they added a $2 "security fee" to my debit card account.

Alysia
November 01, 2011 at 3:26 pm

I moved my checking account to a credit union two years ago and I have 1 cent overdraft fees no ATM usage fees and I earn interest on my checking account.I was also, luck to have looked at a small local bank for a mortgage loan. What I got was 4.25% interest rate and that has saved my family over the years. I don't know what my financial situation would be like without the deals that I have with my local bank and credit union. It has been a god send to my family.

Greg Stephens
November 01, 2011 at 3:02 pm

My wife and I had to go to Florida so she could have surgery on her neck in hopes that the constant pain she was having might be eased. We made arrangements with one of our neighbors to mail our mortgage payment while we were gone. Well, they forgot and the payment arrived one day late. Bank of America dinged our credit score and was not interested in hearing any "excuses". This was after twenty-five years of on time payments. Needless to say, I cashed in some of my retirement funds and paid the whole mortgage off and I am looking into transferring a small home equity credit line amount to a local credit union. I understand that Bank of America is the most brutal and unforgiving lender out there and should be avoided like the plague.

Margie Oliveira
November 01, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Years ago a friend told me to get my mortgage through a community bank. Why cause their rates are always lower than the big banks. Big banks like BOA, Citibank, Trustco and others don't really care about residential loans or anything for the pirvate citizen. Folks these banks only care about corporate accounts. Moving your accounts will not hurt them one bit, but I still advise you to move them for your own benefit. I can also tell you if you really want to have an impact on these banks and on the ecomony then pay off your credit cards and spend only what you can afford on a monthly basis. The economy will be better off and those banks will lose hundreds of millions in interest if those cards no longer exsist. Consolidate to one card and pay on it every month as much as you can afford. Once paid off put it in a safety deposit box and only use for emergencies. We did it and it feels wonderful!

Phil
November 01, 2011 at 12:26 pm

I have had a mortgage loan with BOA for 15 years which I recently paid off. As a result of having a mortgage loan with them, I was able to get a checking account with no fee, however, since the loan is paid off, they are charging me a $12.00 monthly maintenance fee and when I called to inquire about it I was told that the lowest fee available for me, as a senior citizen, is $7.00
monthly,so I am assuming seniors do not get a break on these fees.
Don't get me wrong,I'm not asking for a handout, as I have worked
for 57 years and still working and not occupying any space except
what the good Lord has given me.I will talk to a bank officer who I know about this and who I trust.This is what I was told to do by the lady I spoke to on the phone.

GERRY FLA
November 01, 2011 at 7:23 am

I have beenwoth BOA for 20 years. I have moved everything to a local bank.I will close my account on NOV 5.
If we take control and move our money to local accounts it will
put our money to use locally. LEAVE THE GREED

Bob
October 31, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Hi: I have been with Security Service Federal Credit Union of San Antonio, Texas for 16 years and they are the best, they are in Colorado also. there address is 16211 Lacantera Parkway San Antonio Tx. 78256 Phone 800-520-4241 Talk to them i think you will like what they tell you. Good Luck to all.

Betsy
October 30, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Have opened a new credit card account with my local credit union, and plan to go into BOA on Nov. 4 and pay off and cancel my old one. The merchant fees from my charges may as well go to the credit union which will use them locally.