Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bank of America Backlash - Bank Transfer Day

As we have noted in numerous posts in the past, Bank of America has made a series of significant, and sometimes astounding, mistakes in its business operations, causing significant losses to shareholders, and pain to its employees and customers. 

Most of our observations have been on the brokerage side, and specifically with the handling of the Merrill Lynch acquisition, but their problems and mistakes extend to the banking side as well. 

The arrogant announcement that the bank was going to impose a $5 a month fee for use of its debit cards was the most recent mistake. Not only is it outrageous to charge customers for access to their own money, the simple fact is that debit card use is hirer among lower wage earners than higher wage earners, and such a fee hits those who are least able to afford it the hardest. 

We all know the end of the story - Bank of America dropped its plans for the fee after the huge backlash from consumers. However, what it could not avoid was Bank Transfer Day.

Bank of America's arrogance was nearly perfectly timed with the Occupy Wall Street protests. Say what you will about the protests and protesters, Bank of America played right into the protests hands. Wall Street once again preying on the little guy was a story line that was hard to ignore, and the combination of the protests with BofA's stupidity fueled the specific protest - Bank Transfer Day.

The media is giving credit to a variety of people for Bank Transfer Day, but regardless, it is not disputed that the event was a pure grassroots movement, by bank customers frustrated by one too many nickel-and-diming fees. According to the Motley Fool, LA gallery owner Kristen Christian created a Facebook event on Oct. 4 that called for people to move their money from banks to credit unions. Titled "Bank Transfer Day" and scheduled for Nov. 5, the event struck a chord with a large number of people. More than 70,000 RSVP'd in the month leading up to the action.

As noted in the article, the event might have been a larger success if planned for a weekday rather than a Saturday, but there is no denying that it was a success. According to media reports, and results from the Credit Union National Association, over 650,000 people joined credit unions since the day BofA announced its debit card fee.

Bank Transfer Day: A Resounding, If Unanticipated, Success for Credit Unions

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