For members of Digital Federal Credit Union, getting "Streetwise" about auto buying begins by following The Ten Commandments. Not the biblical variety, but the 10 rules of auto buying that prevent members from getting ripped off on what Tim Garner, VP of marketing at DCU said is one of the two biggest-ticket items people buy.
"Don't people always wonder, 'Is someone paying less than I am?' and how are they supposed to know?" asked Garner. DCU was determined to give members the information they needed to resist impulse buying, avoid "dealers' trap" techniques and make educated purchases.
"It all started with our vision statement," said Garner, "which is to allow members to achieve financial well being. To do that, you've got to be educated; not just about financial services, but about the things you buy. And the place it has the most impact, for good or bad, is on buying a car and a home."
DCU started a consumer education program called "Streetwise" that was created by consumer advocate Remar Sutton, and started with a car buying guide that's useful and right to the point. It rolled out on DCU's Web site www.dcu.org last May and was such a big hit, it was expanded to cover auto leasing, home buying, privacy and fraud, and credit and financial services. "It's turned into a quarterly magazine that's 90% consumer education content," said Garner. Six-thousand hard copies of the auto buying guide were printed, and when members' inquire about a car loan while online with DCU (54% of our members use Home Banking," said Garner ) they get a copy of the book.
The guides are comprehensive, but written in a direct, fact-filled style that reads like a breath of fresh air. The navigation is easy, the graphics colorful and there are links to other useful sites. Very soon, member success stories reached Garner. "A lot of people saved a lot of money. We figured that between May and the first of the year, members saved $850,000 in interest by financing with us, so we put the tally on the site. And our aim is to get a shot at that car loan, mortgage, refinacing, etc, to become their PFI, but beyond that, to be a trusted advisor. That's what this is all about. If we succeed in that, the rest will follow."
The DCU site makes a good case for the CU philosophy too, when it states: " You know our motto, right? 'Not for profit. All for you.' We mean that."
The online member education program has taken off, and the members are asking for more, Garner said. The next guide planned will cover auto repairs," said Garner.