About The Bay: Switching From Bank To Credit Union Not That Easy

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS/AP) – Saturday was National Bank Transfer Day, a grassroots day of action during which customers of big banks were urged to shut their accounts and join credit unions, a campaign fueled by the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations nationwide.

Mike Sugerman tried to make the switch himself, during his travels About the Bay, but he found that it’s not nearly as simple as it might seem.

Mike Sugerman Reports:

Case in point: Sugerman has a savings account with a big bank. It was costing him $25 monthly to have that account.

He tried to negotiate the bank’s website but it was down, likely because so many people were trying to dump that bank, he theorized. So, he tried the old-fashioned route –  a phone call.

He was warned that, “to ensure quality service, calls may be monitored or recorded,” though when he requested permission to record the conversation, he was denied.

“I want to know why I have a $25 fee just for a savings account?” he asked. “You’re supposed to pay interest on that thing. I’m supposed to make money on a savings account.”

The woman on the other end of the phone told Sugerman she’d have to look into the matter – while Sugerman was placed on hold for a total of 26 minutes. Eventually, the phone call disconnected and Sugerman was no closer to knowing why he was being charged such a hefty fee for a savings account.

“They are looking for new ways to charge consumers for revenue that they’ve been losing over the past few months,” reasoned Emily Rusch with the California Public Interest Group, CalPIRG.

Sugerman decided to put his money elsewhere.

“I want to open an account at the credit union here,” Sugerman told a teller, face-to-face.

He was instructed to begin by filling out a form. Then he noticed he would need his wife’s signature, too.

“It’s not as simple as just bringing your account number back down to zero,” Rusch acknowledged.

Even when you do get your paperwork in order, you still have to transfer the money and then make certain your bank account is closed.

“And that’s not enough,” said Rusch. “You actually do need to call and follow up with the bank and actually close your account officially.”

“You definitely have to call,” she stressed.

Sugerman knows all too well what it’s like to call the bank. And of course, if it’s a checking account you’re trying to close, there’s likely more paperwork involved.

“For many customers we now have automatic charges that are linked to our accounts and so of course as a consumer you want to make sure that you tell your gym, tell your mortgage or whatever you might have that’s automatically debited out of your account that you’ll want to make those switches first,” advised Rusch.

In short, Sugerman reported, you have to be awfully dedicated to the cause in order to see the switch through from bank to credit union.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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