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Americans dislike big banks, but few willing to switch

Five years after the financial crisis, 71 percent of Americans say big banks have yet to be held accountable for it, according to a new study.

Nearly 8 of 10 of Americans also think the nation's largest banks were responsible for the crisis, found the survey, which was commissioned by more than 200 community banks and credit unions, along with Kasasa, a brand of free checking and savings accounts offered at community banks and credit unions nationwide.

Despite such sentiments, few people appear willing to change who they bank with. Only 23 percent of customers of large financial institutions said they were even somewhat likely to switch to a local bank or credit union in the coming year. People were reluctant to switch despite 58 percent of respondents feeling that their bank didn't have best interests at heart. Forty-two percent also thought they were being gouged by fees, while one-quarter sometimes felt guilty for doing business with a big bank.

Consumers' unwillingness to stop banking with institutions they don't like is bad news for small banks and credit unions, many of which are struggling to survive.

According to the FDIC, the number of federally insured financial institutions fell to 6,891 last year. That's the lowest since 1934, when federal regulators began tracking the number. In the past 30 years, more than 10,000 banks have closed because of mergers, consolidations or failures. The overwhelming majority of those closures were small banks, or those with less than $100 million in assets

Another challenge for small lenders has been the the Federal Reserve low-interest rate policy. Small banks make most of their money from what many think of as traditional banking -- the spread between the interest they pay to depositors and the interest borrowers pay for loans.

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