CUNA said Thursday that at least 650,000 consumers have joined credit unions since Bank of America announced its now-canceled plans to charge $5 a month for debit cards.

An additional $4.5 billion in new savings accounts also has gone to credit unions during that time, the trade group said, basing its estimate on a survey of 5,000 credit unions nationwide.

The rush of new accounts that followed the Bank of America announcement, and the run-up to Bank Transfer Day it apparently ignited, compares with the 0.2% negative growth the trade group had reported through August, when it said there were 92.6 million credit union members nationally.

“These results indicate that consumers are clearly making a smarter choice by moving to credit unions where, on average, they will save about $70 a year in fewer or no fees, lower rates on loans and higher return on savings,” said CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney.

Credit unions of $100 million in assets and larger in particular are seeing the growth. They account for about 20% of all credit unions and about 80% of the members. CUNA said its survey showed that about 70% of these credit unions report membership growth since Sept. 29.

Cheney also said that CUNA’s aSmarterChoice.org website also is showing a surge, with more than 56,000 visitors in October.

This is at least the second indication that the media hype and credit union advertising and promotions around Bank Transfer Day this Saturday, and anger over bank fees in general, may be driving account switching.

Earlier this month, several credit unions and technology vendors said they were seeing an upsurge in use of their online account opening and switching solutions.