Last Friday, after Bank of America’s (BAC) announcement of new fees on debit cards, retired postal worker Victoria Lee took her adult daughters to her local USPS Credit Union. “[My daughters opened] free checking accounts with no charges for the use of debit cards,” Lee said. Like many Americans who are carefully watching every dollar, the Florida resident said she was grateful to have an alternative to retail Wall Street banks.
Meanwhile, a record-breaking 3,200 new checking accounts were opened over the weekend at the Navy Federal Credit Union, the world’s largest credit union with 3.7 million members and nearly $48 billion in assets. The weekend surge — which crushed the previous high of 2,500 — fits into a larger trend for the credit union, which serves the Department of Defense and active duty military. It has had annual growth between 6.3% and 6.7% since 2007, and is on track to record a 14% uptick in membership this year, said Tisa Head, the senior vice president of savings products. In addition to its fee-free debit cards and accounts, another driver for the year’s projected double-digit membership increase has been the credit union’s willingness to post pay early for active duty members who use the Active Duty Checking account.
“You can’t help but draw some lines to current economic growth,” said Nancy DeDona, vice president of membership.
Amidst the financial chaos on Wall Street in the last few years, and with the biggest names in retail consumer banking getting monthly, if not weekly, black eyes, credit unions have been steadily gaining ground. Since 2007, the credit union membership in the United States has increased from 86.8 million to more than 91 million, according to figures from National Credit Union Association. Total assets have increased from $755 billion to more $942.5 billion at more than 7,290 credit union organizations.