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Bank Transfer Day: Redwood Credit Union Inundated With "Huge Amount of Growth"

Credit unions were slammed Saturday. Are you pulling your money out of large financial institutions?

John and Jolene Edmunds, of Cotati, are "fed up." The couple was part of an onslaught of people expected to switch from mega-banks to smaller community banks and credit unions on what's been designated as Bank Transfer Day.

The Edmunds have been with Wells Fargo for 25 years, and Saturday they switched to the Northern California-based Redwood Credit Union in Rohnert Park.

"We're sick of corporate greed and tax breaks," John Edmunds said. "We've seen our neighbors' houses get foreclosed, and meanwhile CEOs of big banks are getting huge bonuses."

Edmunds said he'd like to see banks work with homeowners.

"We're not going to take this anymore," the couple said. "So we're switching, then we're going to head to Occupy Sebastopol."

The Edmunds are part of a growing movement that ignited with Occupy Wall Street and has spread from big cities to hundreds of working-class suburban communities nationwide. Here, the most recent translation is Bank Transfer Day.

The protest has hit the Rohnert Park Redwood Credit Union profoundly. Last week, Redwood Credit Union was flooded with 600 new members who transferred from Bank of America alone — about 105 of which joined the Rohnert Park branch, according to branch manager Amy Ahanotu, who is also on the City Council.

"That's huge," he said. "When you add other financial institutions, like Wells Fargo or Chase, that number is way higher."

Nationwide, conservative estimates put the number at 650,000 for people who've left large banks, the Press Democrat reported Friday.

Ahanotu said new members are joining in droves. Friday, 75 people joined the credit union, and extra staff were on hand Saturday to absorb an anticipated increase in business.

At least 30 cars funneled in and out of Redwood Credit Union's jam-packed parking lot Saturday in a 30-minute period, while others parked on nearby streets and walked over. Many were making the move.

Laurie Erickson already banks there, but on Saturday said she had plans to switch her business account from Wells Fargo to a credit union.

"I'd rather invest my money in the local community rather than places like Wells Fargo," Erickson said.

Deborah Chaffee, 58, of Rohnert Park, has banked at Redwood Credit Union for years.

"I like it because the money they make comes back to us and takes care of the community," she said.

Compared to this time last year, the Redwood Credit Union has seen an 83 percent increase in new members, according to officials. The Rohnert Park branch serves 14,000 households, which can include multiple different accountholders who live under the same roof.

"This is definitely not normal for us — with the Occupy Wall Street movement and Bank Transfer Day, we've seen a lot of growth," Ahanotu said."We do not depend on fees, and our members are owners of the credit union, so they have a say in what's going on — that's part of what's driving this movement."

Ahanotu said he recognizes why people are choosing credit unions over large banks.

"Any profits we see go right back to our members," he said. "We're local, and we're here to support our community."

Take, for example, an Oct. 21 massive donation at Marguerite Hahn Elementary. The not-for-profit donated between 500 and 600 backpacks filled with school supplies to the local kids at Hahn.

"That is what we are about," Ahanotu said.

Bank Transfer Day is a largely social media-driven push that encourages consumers to move their money out of banks and deposit it in credit unions by November 5. It’s not officially linked with the Occupy Wall Street movement, but motivations are similar. From the Huffington Post:

Consumers are tired of relying on big banks that they argue take advantage of them through lending practices and fees. Though the push for the bank transfer movement began with Kristen Christian, a 27-year-old Los Angeles-based entrepreneur, Occupy Wall Street protesters have become some of the most visible supporters of Bank Transfer Day, allowing them to drive the conversation surrounding Saturday's deadline.

The idea is that banks like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase and others were the main institutions behind the financial collapse. The fact that they were eventually bailed out only fanned the flames. 

Bank of America recently announced a plan for $5 debit card fees, angering a whole new sector of customers. They took a ton of heat, and then . 

That brings us to November 5, Bank Transfer Day. Here is a more in-depth description. Are you a bank that's seen more business, or have you moved your money somewhere else? Tell us why in the comments.

will ackley November 21, 2011 at 05:48 PM
I switched out of wells fargo bank and it felt really empowering. Its hard to get excited about using them when you know what thier up to. I hope america will feel better about saving when the money cirulates locally. We have to take back this country, it is truly a great country and it has run amuck.....

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