Banks versus credit unions: Who comes out on top?

Published: Thursday, Dec. 13 2012 6:30 a.m. MST

Bank of America has lost some of its market share to credit unions in Seattle. Since 2008, households in the Seattle area who bank primarily with credit unions have dramatically increased 6.5 percent.

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Some battles are epic and eternal: BYU versus Utah. Paper versus plastic. Mary Ann versus Ginger. Banks versus credit unions.

That bank and credit union battle? A Seattle Times article by Gene Balk explained a "dramatic" shift in Seattle: "Twenty-eight percent of Seattle-area households bank primarily with a credit union now, up from 21.5 percent in 2008, according to market data firm Scarborough Research. That is a 30 percent jump in credit union banking, the ninth largest increase out of 96 metro areas around the nation."

In Seattle, credit unions passed by Bank of America and are now the top choice for banking. Chase took a 31 percent drop in customers since 2007-2008. Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank gained in share.

There are some hints to why there was a drop, perhaps, in a report from Adam O'Daniel at the Charlotte Business Journal. O'Daniel notes a drop in Bank of America's customer satisfaction ratings in Charlotte, N.C., to a new 10-year low. This, even though the bank is based in Charlotte.

"Bank of America, in particular, stands out as the only bank that is still below its pre-recession customer satisfaction level," Claes Fornell, founder of American Customer Satisfaction Index says in a statement. "It is clear that this is mostly because of fees. Customer satisfaction was probably set to deteriorate further as additional fees were in the making until a few weeks ago, when BoA backed away from the idea."

On the other hand, Bank of America says internal customer satisfaction scores are improving, O'Daniel reports.

A few local reports do not show who is winning on the bank versus credit union question, but a press release on CUInsight.com from Callahan & Associates says credit unions showed their "strongest ever loan performance" in the first three quarters of 2012: "(T)hird quarter 2012 performance data shows credit unions posted 4.2 percent loan growth. ... Credit unions in nearly every state in the country posted positive loan growth. This is in contrast to only two years ago, when nearly half the country posted negative loan growth."

EMAIL: mdegroote@desnews.com

Twitter: @degroote

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