Above-average consumer membership growth fuels attaining of milestone WASHINGTON, May 4, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- America's 7,300 credit unions have topped $1 trillion in total assets, a milestone achieved in part through the past year's above-average growth in consumer membership. At the end of March, U.S. credit unions had $1.02 trillion in total assets, according to the latest Monthly Credit Union Estimates survey released this week by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), the nation's largest credit union trade group. The asset figure represents a 0.6% increase from the prior month, and a 2.5% jump since March 2011. A significant driver of asset growth over the past year has been the gains credit unions have been seeing in new people becoming members, according to CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel. "Last year new-member growth at credit unions was fueled by consumers' dissatisfaction with high bank fees and the emergence of the Bank Transfer Day phenomenon," noted Hampel, referring to the viral campaign that urged consumers to move their money from big banks to credit unions on Nov. 5, 2011, which was dubbed Bank Transfer Day. "The influx of new members and deposits in turn powered credit unions' asset growth." "Going into 2012, it has been gratifying to see strong membership growth continuing," Hampel said. "Clearly, Bank Transfer Day has a tail to it. Net membership growth at credit unions during the first three months of 2012 is greater than membership growth for the whole of 2010. People are discovering it is easier to join a credit union than they think, and they get a great deal both in terms of pricing and service." Credit unions are not-for-profit, financial cooperatives, owned by the members they serve. Today more than 94 million Americans belong to the nation's 7,300 credit unions. Each credit union has a specific field of membership, based on where its members live, work or associate. Today, however most consumers can easily find a credit union they are eligible to join by going to www.aSmarterChoice.org. While the number of credit unions peaked in the early 1970s before a consolidation trend began, credit unions have been steadily growing in total assets and membership in the more than 100 years since the first credit union (St. Mary's Bank Credit Union in Manchester, New Hampshire) opened its doors in 1908. Many credit unions today offer the full range of financial services typically found at a bank. While banks use their customer base to maximize profits to outside investors, credit unions have a different business model as not-for-profit, member-owned cooperatives – which they use to maximize service to their members.