Bank Transfer Day: Simple Step-By-Step Guide To Finding A Credit Union And Ditching Your Greedy Bank

by on Friday, October 14, 2011 at 11:55 am in Occupy Wall Street, Politics

November Fifth is officially ‘Bank Transfer Day’ — a day when tens-of-thousands of Americans plan to collectively transfer all their money from the corrupt and greedy Wall Street banks to not-for-profit, cooperative credit unions.

The steps involved in this process, however, can present some potential challenges to overcome. The key to a happy November Fifth will be to get all your ducks in a row, in advance.

Here are answers to some of the most common questions, which will hopefully help to make Bank Transfer Day a seamless and politically-rewarding experience for all who participate:

Q: I am not a government employee, so would I even qualify to join a credit union?  

A: YES. Each and every credit union qualifies its members based on an entirely different set of criteria.

Some credit unions are available to specific government or company employees; others are open to anyone who resides within a specific locale or county. Many are open to members of associations, to students, to college alumni, etc. 

In a move to increase memberships, a number of credit unions have taken to affiliating with associations that ANYONE can join just by paying a small one-time association fee. Joining the association qualifies you to become a member-for-life at the credit union, with no obligation to even remain a member of the qualifying association.

The third largest credit union in the country, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, and GTE Federal Credit Union are two such credit unions, open to ANYONE who first pays a small fee to sign up with a qualifying association.

Where to begin: First check with your employer’s HR department (check your employee benefits folder) to see if membership to a particular credit union is an option. Or if you are a student or alumni of any college/university, check their websites (sometimes it is listed as a perk in the alumni section). 

Tools you can use:  A Smarter Choice and Find A Credit Union are both search tools which help you to quickly discover new credit unions you qualify for.  Essentially, you query one of many different types of qualifying affiliations, including: company, city, school, university, church, association, occupation, zip code, etc. 

Once you have found the credit unions you are qualified to join, go to their respective websites and compare their services, products and fees to find the one that best meets your needs. 

Some things to compare: Do they offer online banking? What are their fees, if any, for checking and savings accounts? Do they have bricks and mortar locations near you? If not, do they charge fees to use other institutions’ ATM machines? Do they offer attractive CD rates, credit card rates, or auto and mortgage loan rates? 

Q: Did the mortgage meltdown of 2008 affect the financial health of American credit unions? If so, should I be concerned? 

A: YES. In fact federal regulators have filed multi-million dollar lawsuits against banks like Goldman Sachs for peddling toxic-mortgage securities (designated with AAA credit ratings) to credit unions, causing five large ones to fail.

Tools you can use: Credit Union Star Rankings reports the financial health of all the credit unions. This free tool is offered by Bauer Financial, an independent bank research firm which provides data used by St. Petersburg Times (creator of for its BankWatch ratings site.  **Note: Bauer recommends joining credit unions with 4-star and 5-star ratings.

Q: How is the customer service at these credit unions? Are they better or worse than corporate banks?

A: Even though credit unions as a group have a reputation for providing great customer service, every credit union is different.

Tools you can use: Google. You will DEFINITELY want to search the internet for customer reviews and ratings of the credit unions you are considering joining. 

Q: I have now found the credit union I intend to join. Should I just close out my corporate bank account on November 5th, and then proceed to open my credit union account? 

A: NO. VERY IMPORTANT: Find a credit union and open your account in advance of closing your bank account on November 5th. This will help you to avoid a whole host of potential headaches.

If, hypothetically, you must first enroll in a qualifying association, it could be a week or more before you can get your credit union account up and running.

If, hypothetically, the credit union you plan on joining doesn’t have a bricks-and-mortar location near you, then you’ll probably go through an online application process. Often this will require sending them, via snail-mail, an original hand-signed document. You’ll also need for them to issue you a new ATM card.

These kinds of situations can take time, leaving you without access to cash, and unable to pay monthly bills. So, first open your credit union account, then proceed to transfer the rest of the money on or before November 5th.

Other issues that should be addressed BEFORE Bank Transfer Day:

  • Automatic Debits: Any monthly debits to your bank checking account — often by utility companies, mortgage companies, student loan processing companies, etc. — need to be canceled prior to closing out your account. 
  • Automatic Bill-Pay: If you pay your monthly bills using an online bill-paying service that uses your bank checking account as its source of funds, use your credit card or your new credit union account as your new source of funds, so that you don’t miss any payment due dates.
  • Automatic deposits (paycheck): If your employer automatically deposits paychecks into your current bank account each pay cycle, be sure to instruct your HR Dept to begin depositing into your new credit union account. 

On November Fifth, you should now feel confident to either march into your corporate bank and close out your account, or to sign into your new credit union’s online banking system and transfer all the money from the corporate bank (using its account# and routing#)  into your new credit union account. But don’t forget that it often takes a couple business days for the money to clear, regardless of the method you use.

Nothing is more satisfying than voting your conscience with your feet and your dollars. So, here’s to November Fifth, when the banks will learn that this country is and always will be ‘for and by the people’!


In the comment section, below, I have begun to list credit unions (with decent health ratings) that will qualify members based on the area they live, work, worship, or, attend school, or as long as they pay a small fee (towards a qualifying association). 



  • | 809#
    Oct 14th, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    For those of you who live around CLEVELAND, OH => here is a 5-Star (financial health) credit union, called Best Reward Credit Union.

    Anyone living, working, worshiping, or attending school in these counties can join: Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage, Summit.

    Check here for other qualifying criteria: Who Can Join?

  • | 810#
    Oct 14th, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    If you live in or around CHICAGO, IL => here is a 5-Star (financial health) credit union, called Alliant Credit Union.

    It, incidentally, just won CNN/Money Magazine’s 2011 Best all-access credit union

    Anyone living or working in these Chicago area communities can join:
    Arlington Heights, IL
    Bensenville, IL
    Des Plaines, IL
    Elk Grove, IL
    Elmhurst, IL
    Franklin Park, IL
    Harwood Heights, IL
    Itasca, IL
    Mount Prospect, IL
    Northlake, IL
    Niles, IL
    Norridge, IL
    Park Ridge, IL
    Prospect Heights, IL
    River Grove, IL
    Rolling Meadows, IL
    Rosemont, IL
    Schiller Park, IL
    Wood Dale, IL
    Chicago O’Hare Airport property

    Check here for other qualifying criteria: Who Can Join?

    • | 815#
      Oct 14th, 2011 at 6:08 pm

      Alliant Credit’s customer reviews online also seem to be very positive.

      Would be hard not to go w/ Alliant Credit Union if you live in the Chicago area.

  • | 811#
    Oct 14th, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    If you live, work, worship, or attend school within city limits of WASHINGTON, DC => here is a 4-Star (financial health) credit union, called Department of Commerce Federal Credit Union, that you are qualified to join.

  • | 813#
    Oct 14th, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Anyone can join Lockheed Federal Credit Union (note: just pay a small fee to become a member of the American Consumer Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people make the most of their money):

    Lockheed Federal Credit Union is located in BURBANK, CA and has a 4-Star (financial health) rating.

  • | 814#
    Oct 14th, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Anyone can join Apple Federal Credit Union (with a $20 fee paid towards some public school athletic org.) Though this $20/requirement isn’t mentioned on their eligibility page, it will be offered to you as you fill in their online application process. They also offer $50 cash card to anyone who signs up for free checking, so this more than offsets that fee.

    NOTE: If you live in NORTHERN VA – where this credit union is located, you likely qualify another ten dozen ways (and so can avoid $20 payment), so check their membership eligibility first!

    Apple FCU has a 4-Star (financial health) rating.

  • | 816#
    Oct 14th, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Do you live around the BOSTON, MA area?

    You qualify as member for 5-Star (financial health) rated Energy Credit Union if you live in:
    Norfolk County communities, Suffolk County communities, Bedford, Belmont, Billerica, Burlington, Lexington, Lincoln, Newton, Waltham, Watertown, Weston, or Woburn.

    You qualify as member for 5-Star (financial health) rated City of Boston Credit Union if you live in:
    Norfolk or Suffolk Counties, Massachusetts (which includes: Avon, Bellingham, Braintree, Brookline, Canton, Cohasset, Dedham, Dover, Foxborough, Franklin, Holbrook, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Milton, Needham, Norfolk, Norwood, Plainville, Quincy, Randolph, Sharon, Stoughton, Walpole, Wellesley, Westwood, Weymouth, Wrentham, Boston, Chelsea, Revere, Winthrop)

  • | 824#
    Oct 24th, 2011 at 7:34 am

    If you live near PORTLAND, OREGON check out the top-rated local banks like Advantis, Albina Community Bank, Capital Pacific Bank, Pacific NW FCU, and more!
    The folks at the Real Wealth of Portland did a great job compiling information about why you should move to a smaller bank or credit union, and made the process easy by giving us all the details.

    Happy 5th of November in advance!

    • | 825#
      Oct 24th, 2011 at 11:35 am

      Thanks Carrie, for the Portland info. I’ll just add that I ran the financial health of some of them and here’s some results:

      Advantis FCU got 5-Star Rating. Here’s how to qualify to join that credit union:

      1. You live or work in one of these Oregon Counties: Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Hood River, Lane, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Washington, and Yamhill counties.

      2. You live, work, worship or attend school in the state of Washington.

      3. You are an immediate family member of someone eligible for membership, including your: spouse, parent, grandparent, child, stepchild, grandchild, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, uncle, aunt, or domestic partner.


      I used the Bauer Credit Union Star Rating) on Pacific NW FCU, however, and it only earned a 1-Star rating. This means the financial health of that institution is, for whatever reason, very very poor at the moment.

      Just wanted to forewarn readers.

      Great resources, Carrie! Thanks again.

  • | 826#
    Oct 24th, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Can anyone speak about online banks. Are they just as bad as big banks or are they potentially another good alternative to B of A and the like.

    • | 827#
      Oct 24th, 2011 at 7:01 pm

      Key difference between online banks (or any bank for that matter) and credit unions is that all banks prioritize profits, while credit unions, being non-profit cooperatives, prioritize customers.

      The online banks that don’t have bricks and mortar locations do often offer better rates that traditional brick & mortar banks.

      However, I’ve been fee’d to death in the past by e-trade, an online brokerage co, that I believe offers online banking. They quietly changed the terms of my agreement and began charging me a hefty monthly fee for not making enough trades. When I looked into transferring my account somewhere else, I learned they charge a huge transfer fee.

      I personally want to get all my money out of the for-profit financial industry, where shareholder profits are the cornerstone of every decision they make. I’d like to give my business to institutions whose entire purpose is customers. Most of the credit unions I’ve investigated, thus far, offer very impressive online banking options.

      Hope this helps.

  • Oct 28th, 2011 at 7:23 am

    i cannot find a cred union in NYC! the only one not affiliated with a union or church is the Progressive Credit Union, but you have to be recommended by a current member to join them. but of course the membership list isn’t public.

    any help greatly aprreciated. trying to ditch HSBC.

    • | 833#
      Oct 28th, 2011 at 9:41 am

      Hi Jackie,
      Here’s a NEW YORK CITY Credit Union open to everyone (though you must first make a one-time $25 contribution to Voice Foundation – a charity for children w/ disabilities & illnesses):

      McGraw Hill Federal Credit Union which has a 5-Star health rating according to

      McGraw-Hill told me they have been getting their branches ready to help new customers make a quick/easy switch on Bank Transfer Day. Here’s their press release. You can also sign up as a new member online.

      I’ll post more comments w/ New York City credit union options, as I find them. Hope this helps.

  • | 881#
    Nov 29th, 2011 at 12:32 am

    I live in Las Vegas, Nevada but travel all over the country and need to maintain a small corporate account in addition to my checking & credit lines in Nevada. It seems that most of the prevalent and respected credit unions here are not nationally-oriented (i.e. few or no atm co-ops outside of Nevada) or allow buisness accounts without stringent & tedious qualifications- including 6 mos. of membership. Any recommendations on a Credit Union that is Nevada-based (or Vegas friendly) while still being accessible across the country when traveling? I am also a fan of Internet banking.

    • | 882#
      Nov 29th, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      Hi Ginger,
      Here is one you might want to investigate: America First Credit Union
      It is the 12th largest credit union in the nation, the largest CU in Utah, and has many locations in Nevada (including Las Vegas).

      Has 4-Star health rating.

      It has seemingly easy membership eligibility.

      Has free checking/online banking.

      It offers BUSINESS accounts/loan products/services/etc.

      And it offers surcharge-free use of ATM’s that are part of the CO-OP network (which I believe most credit unions in America subscribe to). It actually offers a service where you can text your location, and within 30 seconds it will text you back location of surcharge-free ATMs near you.

      Hope this helps.

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