Opportunity Strikes--High Bank Fees Help Boost Credit Union Accounts
By Gina Ragusa Credit Unions Online
With the tidal wave of fees cascading over customers from multi-national banks, Bethpage Federal Credit Union ($4 billion, Long Island, NY) heralded its new free checking account by “saying no to checking fees from big banks.”
The inventive checking account campaign is based on how current and future legislation will make it nearly impossible to find a free checking account in the Long Island area. Bank customers have already discovered that they are being charged a fee for nearly everything--from visiting a teller to receiving a paper statement and everything in between, bank fees have made the consumer’s neighborhood credit union the only fair option.
“The demand for a free checking product is high on Long Island,” says Gerard Schmitt, VP/Marketing. “Consumers are looking to save money wherever they can and are not used to paying for what used to be a free checking account.”
Free Checking is Getting Prospects’ Attention
Bethpage Federal Credit Union introduced Bethpage Bonus Checking in July 2010 and the credit union has already experienced double-digit membership and deposit growth, Schmitt reports.
[ADGR]The account was launched during a time when the hot news of the day revolved around rising fees in the banking industry. Schmitt explains that in some ways the account was a response to what was going on in the market.
However, he adds that the rollout was mainly driven by the credit union’s belief that a simple, free checking account aligned with its philosophy of providing more value-added products to the membership.
Beyond the account being free, this checking product pays interest (1% APY) when the member completes a few easy requirements. These monthly requirements include receiving eStatements, initiating a monthly direct deposit and performing 15 point of sale debit card transactions. If the member falls short of the monthly requirements, the account is still free, however the member does not earn interest.
“We considered offering a higher interest earning account, however when we investigated some of the similar accounts on the market, the requirements to earn interest were so high that it was nearly impossible to reap the benefit,” Schmitt says.
Bethpage’s Micro-Site Generates Account Interest
Leading the marketing charge is the credit union’s micro-site titled, “Bethpage Freedom Fighters.” The landing page welcomes Long Islanders to not only open a free checking account with Bethpage but also give their bank a pink slip, “mouth off” to their bank and find a local Bethpage branch.
Members can also obtain the latest bank fee news at the site, powered by major news outlets such as CBS Money Watch and ABC News.
Schmitt says the landing page has had tremendous traffic thanks to clever optimization on channels such as Twitter, pay-per-click advertising and strategic keyword placement.
“We are also backing up our online efforts with an offline campaign that involves direct mail to both existing members and prospects.” Schmitt reports that no other credit unions in its market footprint are conducting a similar campaign.
Although the credit union plans to keep the Freedom Fighter pressure on local banks, Schmitt says that credit union efforts in 2011 will also focus on enhancing its loan portfolio.