In order to drive home the message that consumers don’t have to remain hostage to big bank abuse, credit unions and community banks joined forces last week to make a statement at gas stations in 20 U.S. cities across the country.
Last Wednesday and Thursday morning, community based financial institutions pumped $80,000 worth of gas into customer’s tanks to let people know they have a better way to bank.
Sponsored and supported by BancVue’s Kasasa free rewards based checking product, participating financial institutions leveraged the product to demonstrate how consumers can have their checking account cake and eat it too.
"Gas is a metaphor for giving something back when you don't expect it," Gabe Krajicek, BancVue's CEO told American Banker. "We want people to anchor in their brain that Kasasa gives you unexpected benefits.”
According to a recent Javelin Research study, consumers are fed up with fees and big bank mistreatment. The study cites that 25% of Citibank customers and 21% of Bank of America customers say they’re likely or very likely to change banks within the next year.
In fact International Business Times recently dedicated an article to showing how a laundry list of credit unions continue to offer free checking. More than ever consumers are searching for a free product due to rising minimum balance requirements and fees.
MoneyRates.com’s semi-annual bank fees survey reported that the average minimum checking account balance needed to avoid a monthly service fee soared to $4,446.57. Banks that charge a monthly maintenance fee increased from $11.28 to $12.08.
"This is the most comprehensive rising fee trend we've seen in one of our checking account surveys," Richard Barrington, MoneyRates.com senior financial analyst, said in a statement.
Bankrate.com's annual 2012 Credit Union Checking Survey reported that 72% of all credit unions have a free checking account that does not require a minimum balance (versus only 45% of banks that offer free checking without a minimum balance).
"Overall, 98% of the credit union checking accounts that we surveyed are either free or can become free if the account-holder meets minimum balance, direct deposit and/or e-statement requirements," Greg McBride, Bankrate.com's senior financial analyst told International Business Times. "So credit unions remain a viable, consumer-friendly alternative for finding a free checking account."
Angie Harvey, VP/Marketing and Business Development at Money One Federal Credit Union ($103 million, Largo, MD) says that the gas station takeover will allow the community to sample a better way to bank. “We see Kasasa as a great product that demonstrates the kinds of products, service and attention members would typically find at our credit union.”
At Money One, Kasasa Cash is a free account that offers substantial interest on certain balances, nationwide ATM fee refunds, no monthly service fee and more. Members only need to have at least 10 cleared debit card purchases per month, one direct deposit or ACH payment, receive eStatements and log onto online banking at least once.
Harvey adds that being part of the gas station takeover also positions the credit union to spotlight what it is doing in the community. “We participate in individual community events and are planning a community family shred it day in October.”
Harvey says that the credit union hosts a shred day twice a year, but this fall’s event will be like no other. “We will have a photo booth, the Shred It truck on site, face painting, balloon artists, door prizes…it will be quite a community event,” she says.
Alexia Mavrakes, Marketing Manager at Aspire Federal Credit Union ($190 million, Clark, NJ) said that she hopes that the gas station takeover gets people thinking of alternatives. “Although Bank Transfer Day was successful, people are still not aware,” she says. “I hope the event sheds light on both credit unions and community banks. We need to let consumers know there is an alternative and that consumers aren’t having to be taken hostage.”
The takeover also transcended lines that have been drawn between banks and credit unions. Community based financial institutions banded together for the event against a common foe--the mega-bank.
"This is about community banks who came together nationwide to fight against large banks who don't care about their clients," said City National Bank public relations manager Corby-Ellis Mare. "Free gas is our way of giving back to the community."
Last week, 200 consumers unwittingly found out that credit unions and community bankers care when they received $20 worth in free gas.
The team at Pelican State Credit Union ($171.4 million, Baton Rouge, LA) touted their involvement by posting photos of their employees in action on Facebook, working the pump and proudly donning their “Take Back Your Banking” t-shirts. One member commented on the credit union’s Facebook page, “That is one happy customer,” below a photo of a driver beaming from inside the car as a Pelican State Credit Union employee pumped gas into her vehicle.
Smiling, happy gas station customers seemed to be a running theme throughout the country. "I started on line at 9 a.m.," said Regina Smith from Jersey City who waited in line for over an hour. "Once I started, I couldn't turn around. It's worth the $20."
Although gas station owners were on board, some entered with a little trepidation. One owner of an Exxon station in New Jersey said that he was a bit skeptical at first. “When I got the check, I knew it was for real. It's been awesome to see everyone happy,” said Brian Balahadia.
Another New Jersey resident said that the free gas was a welcome offer. "I have no problem sitting for free gas," said Larry Stevens. "Gas prices are way too high."
Other credit unions that pitched in during the event include Raritan Bay Federal Credit Union ($69.4 million, Sayreville, NJ) and the employees from Magnolia Federal Credit Union ($90 million Jackson, MS) whose event started off with a bang. The social media manager from Magnolia posted on its Facebook page, “The Kasasa Gas Giveaway was a "crashing" success this morning. A "rubber-necker" trying to read the event banner caused a 3-car pile up on Hwy 49...oops!”
Although the two-day gas event is in the past, find a credit union and inquire about free checking or Kasasa account opportunities today and start banking locally today.By Gina Ragusa