A Good Way To Save Money

CUs’ challenge is to make good on consumers’ expectations.

November 01, 2011
KEYWORDS interchange
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When Bank of America announced that it will start imposing a $5 monthly fee for debit card use on a big chunk of its customers, we heard the comments—from consumers, the press, and even the president of the United States.

We also heard this refrain from some credit union advocates: This is the time for credit unions.

What they mean is, quite simply, developments such as this can help greatly to differentiate credit unions from all the rest of the financial institutions.

The bank’s new fee may simply come down to a business decision aimed at countering the loss of interchange revenue forced by a new law and its rules.

“Don’t the banks have a right to charge for the convenience they provide to customers who don’t want the burden of carrying around cash or a checkbook?” asks The Wash-ington Post’s Michelle Singletary.

Others have pointed out that the megabank is simply attempting to keep the money flowing in. Bank of America isn’t saying it will lose money by collecting less in interchange fees, writes David Lazurus of the Los Angeles Times.

“What it’s actually saying is that it will make less money” by being forced to charge a lower rate as a result of the law and rules, he points out.

But, regardless of where you come down on the wisdom of Bank of America’s decision, the fact is—perhaps intuitively—consumers looked to credit unions in response to the new fee.

It’s as if they understood: A credit union will give you a better deal.

And we have some data to back that up: Traffic on our consumer website, aSmarterChoice.org, “has jumped eightfold since news of Bank of America’s fee,” reports Ylan Mui of The Washington Post.

That translates into 24,000 visitors during the four-day period after the bank announced its new fee. Most of those visitors were searching for a credit union to join.

(Note: aSmarterChoice.org helps consumers find a credit union to join. It features the only online credit union locater that includes all U.S. credit unions. And it tells the credit union story in simple, consumer-friendly terms.)

As I told Mui in her story, “our point is, if you’re upset, you should do something about it.” Joining a credit union seems like a good way to vent, and save money.

There’s a caveat in some of this as well: Mui also notes that credit unions and small “community” banks must walk a fine line.

She says that smaller institutions, like credit unions, opposed the new interchange law and rules even though they’re technically exempt.

Our concern remains that the market might eventually force smaller institutions to accept lower debit card revenue anyway, pressuring them to impose bank-like fees.

But, as I travel around the country, I hear credit unions say they hope—and intend—to stand fast. Absolutely, they say, resisting the temptation to impose such fees gives credit unions a solid marketing advantage over the big banks. They also point out it’s their duty as cooperatives to place member service ahead of profits, and hold the line on fees.

But, more and more, I’m also hearing: This is the time for credit unions. This is where we show how we are, in fact, different from the other guys.

Last month, credit unions were basking in some favored media and consumer attention, as voices rose urging bank customers to find and join a credit union—because they would get a better deal, and a better shake.

Our challenge now is to make good on that expectation—for consumers and for our movement.

BILL CHENEY is CUNA's president/CEO.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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