Billions of dollars moved in bank transfer demonstrations

Bank branches and ATMs across the country saw a surge in traffic during the last month, which pinnacled over the weekend as Americans from coast-to-coast accessed their accounts, withdrew their money and went elsewhere.

With November 5 being hailed as Bank Transfer Day, the final day in a month-long demonstration to move money from out of the big banks and into smaller, localized credit unions, the tally of those that took up the cause has come through and it shows that the movement was more than just a fluke. Leading up to November 5, $4.5 billion was taken out of major financial institutions.

That number comes from a just released report from ABC News that reveals that credit unions across the country accumulated around 650,000 new customers in the month of October.

Bank Transfer Day began out of the Occupy Wall Street movement as thousands of Americans took to rallying in Lower Manhattan against, among other things, the bailout of the institutions that have made many homeless and broke. As the Occupy movement spread from city to city, so did the agenda of the demonstrators. Bank Transfer Day quickly became a hot topic across the Internet and in Occupy encampments across the country, and with the help of the hacking collective Anonymous, snowballed into a major part of the large Occupy agenda.

“The 99 percent movement is all about finding ways for people to change the economy that is benefiting only the 1 percent,” Courtney Yax, 24, tells The Buffalo News. “Bank Transfer Day is about the power of individuals to take their money out of institutions whose profits go almost entirely to Wall Street and keep that money in our community, where we can control it.”

In the weeks leading up to Bank Transfer Day, around 80 percent of the credit unions in the country saw an increase in membership, with nearly half of the states in the US experiencing membership increases of more than 10,000 among their credit unions. Credit unions in California alone saw an increase in membership by around 90,000 customers, who added $624 million into new accounts.

According to the Credit Union National Association, many of the small branches across the country offered up “switch kits” to existing members to offer to friends and family that were considering jumping ship from the larger banks. Bill Cheney, president and CEO of the collective, said many credit unions were even offering up cash incentives to recruiters and new members as well.

“Regardless of how many people joined credit unions Saturday, there is a big new awareness of credit unions as not-for-profit financial cooperatives owned by their members. That is the credit union difference we’ve worked to let people know about all along,” Mary Beth King, communications director for the Credit Union Association of New Mexico, tells the Business Weekly.

Small-scale withdrawal events have been occurring in the weeks leading up to November 5, occasionally with unexpected ramifications. In New York City last month, dozens were arrested for trying to shut down their accounts at once at a CitiBank branch. This weekend, however, did not spawn any massive incidents involving law enforcement.

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