If you recently joined a credit union, you’re not alone. More than 725,000 people became new members of credit unions during the 12 months ending in March 2011, according to new research by Dan Geller, vice president of Market Rates Insight, a banking research firm.
“It’s definitely a substantial increase,” Geller says.
Total deposits at credit unions rose by $39 billion during the same period, to $812 billion. Most of that money, $23 billion, was deposited straight into checking accounts. Some of the increase came from new members, but existing members saved more, too—average deposits per member rose $355 over the year, to $8,923.
Why did so many people join credit unions last year? Honestly, Geller doesn’t know. Were they previously unbanked people opening checking accounts for the first time? Did they leave traditional banks out of frustration with rising fees?
“There is no way to know because banks do not release their number of customers, unlike credit unions that do release membership,” Geller says. “Generally speaking, credit unions do pay slightly higher on deposits and charge lower fees than banks. Those things are appealing to some segments of consumers.”
Image: The Consumerist, via Flickr.com