Across the country gas prices are expected to hit the $4 a gallon mark this month and with no end in sight, consumers are starting to feel squeezed every time they fill up at the pump.
One reason why prices continue to climb revolves around tensions with Iran and its insistence on developing nuclear weapons.
"Not too much has changed from last week in terms of what's affecting the oil market and retail gas prices. President Obama and other world leaders still plan to enact further sanctions on Iran in hopes of preventing the country from developing nuclear weapons. As long as tensions remain with Iran, we are going to see elevated gas prices," said Jessica Brady, AAA spokeswoman.
April prices may be a drop in the bucket as 11 states have already experienced the $4 average including Nevada, West Virginia, Maryland and Florida. With no one knowing how high prices will rise, Americans are tightening their belt and looking for ways to save.
Credit Unions Are Giving Away Free Gas
Credit union marketers have been monitoring the rise in gas prices and many are integrating gas card/free gas giveaways as part of spring/summer offers.
“During our seminars we feature our vehicle buying advisor who virtually does all the legwork for the member, finds the best deal and eliminates the hassle involved with purchasing a vehicle,” says Gerard McGeever VP/Marketing.
One way to encourage attendance is to offer an attractive incentive, in this case, an opportunity to win a $50 gas card. “ We give away two gas cards per seminar and conduct between four to five seminars per year.”
“Any time you can impact the member’s pocket in this manner, they will show more interest,” he says. “Perhaps they may have an interest in getting an auto loan, but with the gas card giveaways, if the member does win, they walk away feeling as if they have left with something valuable. “
McGeever knows the value of the gas card giveaway after holding an eStatement campaign in August. “We gave away $2,500 in gas,” he says. Anyone who signed up to receive eStatements was eligible to win a $50 gas card. The credit union gave away 50 gas cards during its month-long campaign. McGeever notes that existing eStatement recipients were also automatically eligible to win a gas card as well.
Even before gas prices went through the roof, members were clamoring to get in on the deal. McGeever reports that sign ups during August came in well over 1,000--more than double what the credit union was averaging.
In light of the August campaign and the rise in gas prices, McGeever says that tying a gas card giveaway to a loan promotion this summer isn’t out of the question.
“Watching the news this morning and seeing people talk about gas prices on the rise, we are sensitive to it and know our members may be having to cut back in other areas.” He adds that as a result his credit union may promote other credit union products or services that may help members save money, such as creating a budget through BALANCE or other educational services.
Free Gas at Credit Union Car Sales
If you are in the market to purchase a vehicle call your credit union to see if it is holding an in-house or Enterprise car sale offer.
“We are running our offer in conjunction with our month long promotion with our partner Enterprise Car Sales,” says Blake Boyer, Director of Marketing. “So if a member buys a car from Enterprise and finances with SSSCU we will give them a $100 gas card.”
Boyer says that so far the promotion has been a success. “We are happy with the preliminary results so far considering our economic climate. Our last results showed us approaching $95,000 in auto loan volume with Enterprise Car Sales with 10 days to go.”
In addition to the Enterprise offer, SSSCU is also running another auto loan offer where the member receives an incentive by visiting or buying a vehicle through one of the credit union’s participating dealerships.
The member receives a $20 Shell gas card when he or she presents a special coupon at one of the credit union’s participating dealers (no purchase required) or a $50 Visa gift card when the member purchases a vehicle through an approved dealership and finances the vehicle through the credit union.
“We are slowly starting to see this program ramp up a bit more as its been running close to six months now. And again, we like to consider the gas card and gift card as a pleasant added bonus for our members, This program provides us with the reporting of where the member buys their car and where they finance it, if not with the credit union.”
Boyer says that with the average gas price in the credit union’s market area is at $3.94 a gallon, the offer has been a relief for members. “I definitely think our offer is helping our members when gas prices are on the rise.”
eStatement Giveaways are Hot
More than a handful of credit unions are giving away gas cards for eStatement sign ups. Greater Minnesota Credit Union ($151 million, Mora, MN) is offering free gas starting March 1 through May 31 as a way to drive more members toward eStatements.
“When a member signs up for eStatements between March 1 through May 31, the member will be entered into a drawing for a $100 gas card for each of those three months,” says Peter Masterson, VP/Marketing and Business Development. “So if you signed up in March, you would be eligible for the gas card drawing at the end of March, at the end of April and at the end of May.”
Masterson adds that if the member is already an eStatement user, the member’s name is in a drawing for a $50 gas card for each of those same months as a “thank you” for using eStatements.
In terms of the incentive, Masterson says that using the gas card was a no brainer. “The gas card is something virtually everyone can use. Whether you’re going to work, school, vacation, or getting groceries you’ll need to get there and more often than not, that involves the use of a vehicle. I find that those prizes that have the greatest use tend to get the better results. Even if you don’t use the card for gas, you can still use it inside the store for anything the convenience store offers.”
He believes that the gas card, in part is helping the campaign. He reports that in the first month the credit union signed up 134 new eStatement users. “When looking at the overall savings of eStatements vs. paper statements of $6 per year per member, I have already broken even on this promotion with two months remaining.”
“Members are very happy to win the gas card,” he adds. “A $100 gas card may not go as far as it did last year or the year before, but it is greatly appreciated and gives you one less thing to worry about… even if it is only for a week or so.”
Masterson adds that like other credit unions, Greater Minnesota provides financial resources to help members manage finances and create a budget. His credit union offers Accel, a financial management organization that assists the member with budgeting, understanding credit, personal money management, debt repayment and how to avoid bankruptcy, foreclosure and repossession.
“Accel gives personalized answers to members’ individual needs. For issues ranging from a proactive savings plan to saving a home from foreclosure, advice is only a phone call away.”
Rising gas prices got you down? Find a credit union and inquire about any promotions where free gas is involved.
By Gina Ragusa