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April Fool’s – The Most Elaborate Hoax…Or Is It?

“With low rates, minimal fees, and a focus on the community, it has to be a joke, right?”

And thus begins the most intriguing post of the year.

Conveniently shared on April 1st, known world-wide as April Fool’s Day, an unnamed blogger drew all the wrong conclusions. Here’s a piece:

“…planning went deep, as one study found there to be thousands of these institutions across just the United States alone. Estimates put their total member base at 100 million, meaning that one in three Americans are a part of this intricate plot. Imagine the time it took to put this together! Not only that, but all these “credit unions”, as they call themselves, appear to work together. Through something called Shared Branches, a person can walk into a credit union they’ve never met and deposit or withdraw money…from their own account! And you thought Google went overboard with their April Fool’s jokes. A moon base? That’s nothing compared to a nationwide agreement of shared banking.”

They continued in this manner for another few paragraphs before reaching this gem:

“Oh, and there are no additional fees to do this. Tell me that isn’t the most unbelievable gag you’ve ever heard!”

This blogger proceeded to analyze how credit unions are not-for-profit entities, serving their community rather than a room of stockholders:

“Typical banking involves fees. It has to. How else can an institution make any money? With interest rates where they are, fee-structures are essential to maintaining a profitable outlook. But here they claim to be something called ‘not-for-profit’, meaning that all money made after expenses goes back to the members [emphasis original]. They call them dividends. I call it an elaborate prank.”

As you know, this blogger got it all wrong, and credit unions do, in fact, exist. Contrary to that perspective, they do work on a not-for-profit basis, and have at their core the best interests of their membership. It would appear that the unbelievability of these truths were too much for them.

Or, they were right, and the entire thing has been one enormous practical joke. Are you in on it? And, if so, can I make a withdrawal? As the blogger concluded:

“If, by some wild miracle, I am incorrect in these analyses, and credit unions are actually a crucial part of our society, then it is high time for me to find one which I can join. Only then will I be able to learn if the credit union idea is an intricate joke. Or, perhaps, the joke has been on me and the time and money I’ve spent in endless battles with my current financial institution.”

Happy April Fool’s Day, unnamed blogger. And take a look at A Smarter Choice to find a credit union for you. Also, watch out for those pranksters…it seems as if they’ll do anything to pull one over on everyone nowadays!

To Make A Difference, Be Different

Originally published on CUInsight.com

What appeals to you more?

Get a lower interest rate! How much lower? Nearly 3%!
Remember the milk, we’ll remember your rewards.
Or even
Buy what you need. Support the causes you love most.

Let’s face it. People aren’t good at math. It’s an important challenge the credit union industry is tackling with financial literacy programs. Commendable. However, I would bet most people will still sign up for a credit card with a few percent higher interest rate if it means they can get back a few percent in rewards. “They’ll even out in the end, at worst,” may be a common thought.

And rewards are just the beginning.

You’re a credit union. Community engagement is part of your DNA. Show it!

Just take a look at our friends up north. I spoke with a representative from Vancity Credit Union in Vancouver about their credit card program. Why? Because it is different by a long shot.

Not only do their members receive rewards, depending on the level of card chosen, but the entire program is a staple of the community. But don’t take my word for it! Here’s how the spokesperson for the program described it to me (emphasis mine):

“What we do is take 5% of our profits on Visa card products and put it into the enviroFund Grant Program. Being a credit union, we donate all our profits back to our local communities through our grant programs and member rebates. This 5% is just part of what we do and is another way members can choose to support environmental issues through the credit card they use.

We use the funds to address local environmental issues in our communities. Right now we are in the middle of a 5 year campaign focusing on building a sustainable local food system. In the past (as the enviroFund has been going since 1991) we have addressed other issues such as air quality and transportation, toxics in our environment, water issues, green buildings, wildlife preservation and ecosystem restoration to name a few.”

It’s ok if you feel a bit overwhelmed. “But they’re a really big institution, Joe!” That’s fair, and I raised that point to them. They explained how it is related to a percentage of profits, not the total funds. Therefore, a small institution could run a program with smaller investments, but no less impressive impact.

Take, for example, Christian Community Credit Union.  Their “Gives to Missions” cards support a variety of community efforts using a portion of profits from interchange fees.  From disaster relief to college scholarships, their members have supported a to-date donation total of over $4 million! Oh, and cardholders receive rewards for every purchase, as well.

A recent blog on A Smarter Choice discussed the perks of using a credit union credit card. All of them revolved around the boring rates. It’s true, they are lower, yet wouldn’t it attract more attention if you spoke of building playgrounds in your city and returning rewards to your members?

If we talk about being a smarter choice, shouldn’t we be smarter about how we promote our own programs and services?

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