Bank and thrift trade groups launched a counterattack over the airwaves here Monday against what they called a "negative" national advertising campaign by credit unions.

The American Bankers Association, America's Community Bankers, and the Independent Bankers Association of America are running radio ads for at least a week on two local stations that criticize credit unions for taking advantage of federal income tax breaks to expand their memberships beyond "the little guy."

An ABA spokeswoman declined to disclose the cost of the ads, which are aimed mainly at Congress while the House considers legislation that would allow multiple common bonds at occupational credit unions.

In one ad, a man says he is going to form a credit union of "polo players, physicians, (and) philosophers."

"I thought members of a credit union had to share some common bond," a woman says.

"Sure they do," he answers. "They are all in the phone book under 'P.'"

On Sept. 4, credit unions began a four-week national ad blitz-primarily on CNN and its Headline News affiliate-that accuses banks of trying to take away consumers' ability to join credit unions.

Increased viewership prompted by coverage of Princess Diana's death produced more than 2,000 calls to a credit union phone center in the first two days, a Credit Union National Association spokesman said.

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