Bank Transfer Day

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$100 Bank Transfer Day poster

Bank Transfer Day was a consumer activism[1] initiative calling for a voluntary switch from commercial banks to not-for-profit credit unions by November 5, 2011.[2][3][4] As of October 15, 2011, a Facebook page devoted to the effort had drawn more than 54,900 "likes".[5] Debit card fees of $5 a month from the Bank of America are among steps leading to the Bank Transfer Day protest with a November 5 deadline.[6] Occupy Wall Street participants support the effort[7] even though the events are not related.[8] Among the detractors were Occupy Los Angeles participants: Sigurd Olin Christian, creator of the Bank Transfer Day event, stated that "he was accosted by Occupy Los Angeles organizers and has even received threatening phone calls" because of his pro-credit union rather than anti-bank approach.[9]

Christian, an art gallery owner in Los Angeles, California, said he was dissatisfied with Bank of America's "ridiculous fees and poor customer service."[10] He created an event on Facebook called “Bank Transfer Day” and invited his friends to close their accounts at big for-profit banks and move their money to credit unions by November 5, 2011. Christian chose November 5 because of its association with Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up the British House of Lords and bring Catholic rule back to the United Kingdom, but was captured on that date in 1605.[11][12][13] This has been a continuing observance.[14]


Bank Transfer Day encourages bank customers to transfer their cash out of big banks to credit unions. The event is in response to what critics regard as excessive fees that big banks plan to roll out, notably Bank of America's decision to charge its debit card users with a $5 monthly fee and Wells Fargo's $3 charge of the same. The Facebook page for the event states the following: "Together we can ensure that these banking institutions will always remember the 5th of November!! If the 99% removes our funds from the major banking institutions to non-profit credit unions on or by this date, we will send a clear message to the 1% that conscious consumers won't support companies with unethical business practices."[15]

Similar sentiments predate the Bank Transfer Day by at least several years. In 2009, finance writer and radio host Dave Ramsey wrote: "I haven’t done business with big banks for years, primarily because of the awful customer service you get at most of them. I like local, community banks, and I believe whole-heartedly in credit unions. As a rule, these institutions practice excellent customer service. Plus, most of them didn’t get mixed up the sub-prime debacle."[16] Similarly, Suze Orman was quoted in 2009 characterizing large banks as often doing "anything to increase earnings and profits" for shareholders, while credit unions, accountable to their members, are more typically "ethical and honest".[17] In August 2011, Clark Howard advised his readers to be wary of "giant, monster megabanks" and to seek better interest rates and customer service at smaller banks or credit unions.[18]

Credit unions realize increased deposits[edit]

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) said the association's web site aimed at informing customers about credit union services has seen traffic double. CUNA members reported an increase in account openings. According to Bill Cheney, CUNA's president and chief executive officer, the current surge in account openings has been more sustained than similar surges in the past.[19]

Between September 29, the day that Bank of America announced its (now defunct) monthly fee for debit card transactions, and November 2, credit unions received $4.5 billion in funds and 440,000[9][20] new customers, which equated to a 50% increase in new accounts.[21][22] CUNA claimed that on November 5, 2011 alone, approximately 40,000 people joined credit unions, with credit unions realizing $80 million in new account funds.[23][24] In a December newsletter, CUNA estimated that nearly 700,000 consumers had opened new accounts at credit unions between late September and the November 5 target date,[25] although an article published in American Banker in early December cites CUNA as offering a revised estimate of 214,000 new customers in October.[26]

Small banks and credit unions with assets valued at less than $10 billion can afford to offer extra rewards and avoid imposing additional fees, as they are exempt from the caps imposed by the Durbin Amendment.[27]


The planned debit transaction fee increase is reportedly caused by the Durbin Amendment that went into effect on October 1, which is an addition to the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a U.S. federal statute[15] The Durbin Amendment limits the fees that banks can charge merchants when a consumer swipes their debit card from 44 cents to 24 cents. According to experts, a customer making 25 debit card transactions a month would lead the bank to lose $5 it would have made before the Durbin Amendment. As a result, it has been suggested(by whom?) that the larger banks, including Wells Fargo and SunTrust, are making up for lost revenue by charging for debit card use, the cost ranging anywhere from $3 to $5 per month, although no specific cause/effect relationship has been established.[28]

Democratic lawmakers asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the large banks that recently started charging debit card fees. A group of four congressmen claimed that major banks like Chase and Wells Fargo may have violated antitrust laws. In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, dated October 13, 2011, U.S. Representative Peter Welch and four other Democrats asked Holder to investigate whether big banks violated antitrust laws before announcing the fees.[29][30] The four Congressmen said the timing of the new fees from each bank is suspicious.[31]

On October 12, 2011, U.S. Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Bill Owens (D-NY) introduced a bill that would repeal the Durbin Amendment. According to Chaffetz, repealing the Durbin Amendment would fix the disastrous consequences of this bill.[32] However, U.S. Representative Spencer Bachus (R-AL), who chairs the House Banking Committee, has suggested that revisiting the Durbin Amendment was a low priority. It is unclear whether the bill will ever see a vote.[33]

On November 1, 2011, Bank of America announced plans to cancel its $5 debit card fee in response to customer feedback.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sigurd Olin Christian (November 1, 2011). "[Bank Transfer Day] fundamentally doesn't qualify as a boycott". Facebook. Retrieved November 1, 2011.
  2. ^ Little, Lyneka (October 18, 2011). "'Bank Transfer Day' Gains Momentum on Facebook". Consumer Report (blog of ABC News). Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  3. ^ Staff (October 13, 2011). "'Bank Transfer Day' Movement Goes Viral". WFXT. Retrieved October 20, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Pfeifer, Stuart & Reckard, Scott (November 4, 2011). "One Facebook post becomes national movement to abandon big banks". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 6, 2011.
  5. ^ (registration required) Schwartz, Nelson D. (October 15, 2011). "Online Banking Keeps Customers on Hook for Fees". The New York Times. Retrieved October 17, 2011.
  6. ^ O'Connell, Brian (October 12, 2011). "Bank Transfer Day: A Protest with Your Money". (via Yahoo! Finance). Retrieved October 19, 2011.
  7. ^ Fed-up customers taking action against big banks, The Salt Lake Tribune
  8. ^ 'Bank Transfer Day' Movement Goes Viral Archived October 15, 2011, at the Wayback Machine on WHBQ-TV, FOX News
  9. ^ a b Passman, Aaron (December 19, 2011). "How Kristen Christian Came To Launch Bank Transfer Day". Credit Union Journal: 23.
  10. ^ Miller, Jen A. (October 15, 2011). "Fed Up L.A. Gallery Owner Launches 'Bank Transfer Day'". Savings Blog (blog of Archived from the original on December 28, 2011. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  11. ^ White, Martha C. (October 10, 2011). "Wall Street Protests Get Specific: Could 'Bank Transfer Day' Pit Americans Against Their Big Banks?". Moneyland (blog of Time). Retrieved October 19, 2011.
  12. ^ Digiovanni, Myriam (October 19, 2011). "Bank Transfer Day: A Good Time to Be a CU". Credit Union Times. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  13. ^ "'Bank Transfer Day' Causes CU Buzz." – from Credit Union Times
  14. ^ "Credit unions salivating ahead of Bank Transfer Day". Archived from the original on 2016-11-05. Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  15. ^ a b Thompson, Cadie (October 7, 2011). "Occupy Wall Street Backs a Nationwide Boycott Against Banks". NetNet with John Carney (blog of CNBC). Retrieved October 19, 2011.
  16. ^ Ramsey, Dave (2009). "Banks Versus Credit Unions", 22 April 2009
  17. ^ Bissonette, Zak (2009). Suze Orman says: Switch to a Credit Union, Daily, retrieved 25 September 2014
  18. ^ "Spending-smart advice from author and consumer advocate Clark Howard - tribunedigital-chicagotribune". 2016-06-26. Archived from the original on 2016-06-26. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  19. ^ Palmer, Alex (October 15, 2011). "Credit Unions Boom – A Bank-Fee Revolt". New York Post. Retrieved October 19, 2011.
  20. ^ The original estimate from CUNA was 650,000, but was later revised to 440,000.
  21. ^ "Mass. credit unions count 20,000 bank transfers". Boston Herald. November 7, 2011.
  22. ^ (November 7, 2011). "Credit Unions Feel Boost from Bank Transfer Day." Fox Business News. Accessed November 2011.
  23. ^ Berman, Jillian (November 9, 2011)."Bank Transfer Day Pushes 40,000 To Join Credit Unions, Survey Finds." Huffington Post. Accessed November 2011.
  24. ^ (November 9, 2011.) "CUNA survey: 40k members, $80M in savings on BTD." Archived 2011-11-11 at the Wayback Machine Credit Union National Association. Accessed November 2011.
  25. ^ Credit Union National Association, Inc. (December 2011). "Bank Transfer Day Spurs Record Member Growth" (PDF). Credit Union Directors Newsletter, Vol. 35, Issue 12. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-09-25. Retrieved January 12, 2012.
  26. ^ Stewart, Jackie (December 5, 2011). "Credit Unions Eat Crow On Customer Numbers". American Banker. Retrieved January 12, 2012.
  27. ^ David Falchek (2 November 2011). "Small banks, credit unions capitalize on big bank fumbling". Citizen's Voice.
  28. ^ Driscoll, Emily (October 11, 2011). "How To Avoid Bank Fees". Fox Business Network. Retrieved October 19, 2011.
  29. ^ Coriell, Scott. "Welch to Holder: New Debit Card Fees Warrant Federal Anti-Trust Investigation". Archived from the original on October 18, 2011. Retrieved October 17, 2011.
  30. ^ Welch, Peter (13 October 2011). "Letter Calling for Attorney General Investigation of Bank Fees" (PDF). United States House of Representatives. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 December 2011. Retrieved October 17, 2011.
  31. ^ Staff (October 13, 2011). "Democrats Ask Justice Dept. To Probe Bank Fees". Reuters (via Fox Business Network). Retrieved October 19, 2011.
  32. ^ Touryalai, Halah (October 13, 2011). "New Bill Aims To Kill Durbin's Debit Card Fees". Adviser Network (blog of Forbes). Retrieved October 19, 2011.
  33. ^ Mandelbaum, Robb (October 17, 2011). "In Battling Merchants, Banks Still Hope To Overturn Durbin Rules". You're the Boss. The New York Times. Retrieved October 19, 2011.
  34. ^ Choi, Candice (November 1, 2011). "Bank of America nixes $5 debit card fee". Associated Press (republished on The Indianapolis Star). Retrieved November 1, 2011.