Attract Student Members Through Innovation and Commitment

Use varied product offerings and multi-channel marketing to attract the attention of young adults.


An attachment formed young is strong. Think about the things you loved as a child that still hold a place in your life. Credit unions can seize the opportunity this attachment presents and turn student members into lifetime ones. The key to doing that lies in product lines and strategy.

Lake Trust Credit Union ($1.6B, Lansing, MI) offers loans, student accounts, and refillable Visa cards to teach young adults about credit. Wright-Patt Credit Union ($1.9B, Fairborn, OH) offers loans for school and life after as well as a credit card aimed at making young adults debt-free.  Both credit unions are engaging students with marketing ideas old and new.

Lake Trust educates its members on college lending options before advocating its CU Student Choice loan, says Danielle Brehmer, vice president of marketing for the credit union.

The credit union’s student loan of choice has competitive interest rates and no origination fees, which make it an attractive option.

Lake Trust’s deposit products, such as SoSMART Checking, also cater to students. On November 1, the credit union will roll out another checking account for students younger than 24, Brehmer says.

Reloadable Visa cards help students learn about credit, and easy interbank transfers allow families to stay connected even if they don’t use the same financial institution. Solutions like these show the institution is committed to making life easier for students and their families.

But how does Lake Trust reach young adults?

“We focus on getting right to the individuals through on-site visits, direct member contact, and our online channels including our website, Twitter, and Facebook,” Brehmer says.

In addition to reaching out to young adults, Lake Trust is working to retain their membership.

“It’s a continuous effort to maintain focus and adjust your offerings and remain relevant to the changing needs of students,” Brehmer says. “We have dedicated personnel to help with this, and it’s really become a part of our focus for the future.”

At Wright-Patt, the future for students is equally bright.

The credit union’s Student Choice Private Loan program comes with a manageable interest rate, no origination or prepayment fees, and a repayment schedule that works around the student. And the credit union supplements its loan offerings with bundled deposit products such as the Student Essential Package, which includes incentives for joining.

To engage students after school’s end, Wright-Patt offers a low-interest, post-graduate loan of $1,000. “The idea is to provide students with a loan that offers 12 payments, which allows them to establish credit and not get deeper in debt like they might with a credit card,” says Dustin Limburg, marketing representative for student lending at Wright-Patt.

To reach students, Limburg relies on a variety of methods including social media, word-of-mouth, emails, and events. “Much of our success is driven by the tendency of students to discuss and refer one another to the services they themselves enjoy,” he says.

Wright-Patt’s results say everything. Young adults between 18 and 24 represent 12% of the credit union’s membership and more than 26% of new members, Limburg says. As of early August, more than 24,000 of the credit union’s 195,000 members were young adults.

Additionally, penetration with checking accounts among young adults is excellent. The demographic represents 15% of checking account users; more than 64% of young adults hold a checking account versus 51% of all other members. 

In the end, engaging this population isn’t easy, but Limburg has some useful tips.

“We’ve learned that like any other member, young adults want to be treated with respect,” he says. “That means avoiding situations where they feel talked down to or feel they are being treated like a kid. Simply starting a Facebook page and telling them ‘We're cool’ isn't going to win over this crowd.”

Students might be young, but they aren’t naïve. They know what they like, and once they’ve got it, they don’t let it go.




Sept. 20, 2010


  • Spot on. When I was in college, I picked an FI solely based on the fact that they had ATMs on campus. When I graduated from college, I was fortunate enough to have my father pass on the legacy of a USAA membership (I know, a bank, but bear with me). With financial advisors, auto insurance, reasonable auto loans , and renters insurance, there was every tool available to me to get a solid start. 20 years later, I am still a client and wouldn't consider leaving. I use a CU now as a supplement, especially when it comes to loans, and have the best of both worlds. The hybrid approach gives me choices.

    A CU that focuses on both the immediate needs of students (even reaching back to high school students with their first jobs) accompanied by services focusing on teaching financial responsibility will earn a member for life.

    BTW, thank you for not saying Gen Y once. As a member of the supposed Gen X, I think it's a mistake to lump any group based on any shallow similarity such as age.
    Rob Banker