The big switch: banks to credit unions

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - In the battle to balance the household budget, many families are looking at the place they keep their money.

It amounted to only $10 dollars a month for Jeff Britt and his family, but that extra $5 fee attached to the two debit cards he and his wife used, was enough for him leave his big bank, and move all of his money to a local credit union.

It was his small way of making a big statement.

"We weren't really crazy about the idea of paying a bank to keep our money for us," Britt said.

When he learned of a new few attached to what he felt was simple banking, he had enough.

"Sort of out of spite when the fees came along," he said. "We decided it was time to make a change."

Jeff and his wife aren't alone.

"We have really noticed a lift since June of last year," said George Kite, the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Call Federal Credit Union. He said that business at his non for profit financial institution is booming.

"Especially in the environment we are in now, where every dollar counts".

At Call Federal Credit Union alone, new checking accounts are up 180% when compared to last year at this time, new memberships are 80%. Most people making the move are a lot like Jeff.

"Consumers that are now being charged a fee on their debit card, start shopping around, you don't want to pay those fees," said Kite.

Kite argues the services offered at a credit union are often competitive, if not better than a traditional bank.

Among the services offered:

*Checking and savings accounts

*Debit and credit cards

*Home and car loans

Most are all available at competitive rates and almost all come without those pesky fees.

"We pride ourselves on not relying on non-interest sources of income," said Kite.

But what you gain in local connections, you lose in the resources offered by a big bank.

*Fewer Credit Union branches

*Fewer ATMs

*Branches only available in your local community (although you can bank in other credit unions that cooperate with your local credit union.)

It's early, but Jeff hasn't really noticed much of a difference.

"I wouldn't say one is better than the other from our perspective," he said.

And if you are thinking about making the jump, Jeff recommends figuring out what works best for your specific situation.

"A lot of it is just where to find the best deal."

If you do make the switch it takes a little bit of work. Especially if you take advantage of multiple services like automatic bill pay, online banking, direct deposits and debit cards.

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