Credit Unions Become More Popular with Occupy Wall Street Support

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The Occupy Wall Street protesters are calling for a bank transfer day, one week from Saturday, Oct. 29. Kansas City already ranks high nationally in credit union membership, but credit unions say they’re seeing even more interest now.

There are 52,000 members of the Mazuma Credit Union. Most of them are in the metro area. Statewide, one out of five Missourians is a credit union member. Mazuma says generally that’s because credit unions charge lower fees and pay members higher interest rates.

“We are getting quite a few phone calls,” said Rob Givens. “People that are just sort of probing, and the folks that are coming in to open new accounts are occasionally mentioning that they are just sort of tired of dealing with a bank.”

Givens says unlike banks, credit unions are owned by their members, not stockholders. He says everything is structured around paying back members, including annual dividends. But consumer credit counselors say credit unions may not be for everyone.

“People have various needs when they’re working with a financial institution,” said Jana Root. “So you’re looking at credit products, mortgage products, convenience locations, ATM locations, fees of course. They need to do their research and pick the best for them.”

Kevin Barth, the president of Commerce Bank in Kansas City, says community banks like his shouldn’t be lumped together with behemoths like Bank of America.

Barth is quick to point out that unlike banks, credit unions don’t pay income taxes because of a loophole in the law. And he says it’s banks, not credit unions, that provide most of the business and commercial lending that drive our economic engine.

Barth also says regulation changes have cost commerce a few customers that used to face overdraft fees. But responsible customers are not seeing any new fees.

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