(NEW YORK) -- Business is booming at credit unions as consumers flee the high fees and low yields at traditional banks, but experts say comparison shopping is vital before switching and there may not necessarily be a credit union for everyone.
As a result of Bank Transfer Day, in which consumers were encouraged to switch to credit unions, 54 percent of credit unions reported an increase in share growth, according to a survey from the National Association of Federal Credit Unions sent to 10,000 respondents.
At least 650,000 people have switched to credit unions since Sept. 29, according to the Credit Union National Association, after Bank of America announced plans to charge a $5 debit card purchase fee next year. The bank announced it was canceling the fee last week.
About 80 percent of credit unions offer at least one free checking account with no minimum balance requirement and no monthly or activity fee, according to Moebs Services; about 64 percent of the largest U.S. banks offer the same, according to Moebs.
Bankrate.com's 2011 Credit Union Checking Survey shows a dozen credit unions of the largest 50 had monthly service fees, though the majority of those dozen waive those fees with policies such as a minimum balance or direct deposit.
Credit unions can help consumers save money because they are non-profit, and can pay higher interest rates on savings accounts, and offer lower loan and credit card rates. The median annual fee for credit cards is $25 for credit unions and $59 for banks, and their respective overdraft transfer fees are $6 and $10, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts in May 2011.
But savers should take steps before transferring to a credit union, including researching which charge fees or require minimum balances.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio