Pain at the Pump: 10 Ways to Help Members

Credit unions find ways to help members save money on gas.



As gas prices skyrocketed this summer, many credit card issuers sought ways to help out beleaguered consumers. Running June 15th through September 1st, a program at NAPUS Federal Credit Union, Alexandria, Virginia, gave members 5% cash back on their gas purchases. Members’ relief from high gas prices came in a lump sum rebate check at the program’s end in September, which also served to boost NAPUS to top-of-wallet status. The gas rebate program was designed to be profitable, with interest from revolving balances over the summer offsetting September’s large outlay.

2. Unitus

Only a handful of credit unions offer loans for bicycles. Recognized in CUSP 1Q 2007 for its green auto loans, Unitus Community Credit Union in Portland, Oregon continues to lead the pack in offering green products to its members. Launched June 9th, is an effort to further integrate the credit union into the burgeoning green movement by helping out the large biking community in Portland. The 12-month, low-APR loans for bicycles and accessories quickly found an audience. Thanks to grassroots marketing and partnerships with bike shops, Unitus made its first bicycle loan just three weeks after the marketing campaign kicked off.

3. Digital

The electric-powered Segway Personal Transporter is popping up all over America as a transportation alternative for short distances. Used for city history tours and to help people who have difficulty walking get around, the Segway’s average price of $5,500 has precluded many potential users from purchasing one. In Marlboro, Massachusetts, Digital Federal Credit Union, which offers many small recreational vehicle and other personal loans, now provides 5-year loans for Segways, too, to help its members gain freedom from the budget-busting prices at the gas pump. Over the past three years, Digital has financed 35 Segways.

4. HawaiiUSA

Hawaii has taken a double hit from the gas crunch, not only at the pump, where prices  consistently exceed the mainland average, but also from a drop-off in tourism, due to the rising cost of air travel. Many of the credit unions in Hawaii have partnered with local oil companies to assist their members. Aloha Petroleum offers members of HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union in Honolulu a credit card with 5¢ a gallon discounts on gas purchases at all Aloha Petroleum stations. HawaiiUSA assumes no risk in this deal, while providing huge value for their members. One downside: members no longer use HawaiiUSA’s credit or debit cards at the Aloha pump. But, evidence suggests that members continue to actively use HawaiiUSA’s cards on most other purchases.

5. Envision

Dozens of credit unions currently offer green auto loans, but few go as far as Envision Credit Union of Tallahassee, Florida. To encourage members to consider purchasing more fuel-efficient cars and bring in a greater number of green car loans, Envision hosted a green car show in a branch parking lot. Showcasing a selection of cars that get over 30 mpg from local dealers and members, the event allowed members to ask questions about hybrids and electric motorcycles without feeling pressured to buy. This educational experience yielded six green car loans in the first week after the show.

6. Visions

The price of home heating oil is steadily rising in tandem with prices at the gas pump; 1,000 gallons of oil can cost $5,000. Northeastern states are disproportionately hurt by high oil prices, with long, cold winters in a region where 36% of households heat with oil, compared to only 3% nationwide. Visions Federal Credit Union in Endicott, New York is offering loans to help members purchase heating oil from a distributor at a reduced price. Now members can save on their heating bill by buying in bulk at a reduced price.

7. Andrews

Credit Unions are constantly seeking new ways to grow their member base, while providing added value to existing members. Over the summer, Andrews Federal Credit Union, Suitland, Maryland, successfully pursued both goals by running a timely promotion where members who referred friends to the credit union were entered into a $600 gas card drawing.

8. Toronto Electrical Utilities

In an industry where members greatly influence product offerings and processes, Toronto Electrical Utilities Credit Union noticed that members were increasingly demanding environmentally-friendly practices. TEUCU revamped both its operations and products, pushing paperless statements and green loans. Going above and beyond this green threshold, they then started producing podcasts on ways to green members’ lives, with coverage of green home renovations, installation of solar panels, and related green topics. By providing useful information to back up its products, TEUCU has not only opted for a greener credit union, but is helping its members reduce their carbon footprints, as well.

9. LA Firemen’s

Wanting to help members use their cars less, Los Angeles Firemen’s Credit Union has adopted remote deposit technology to reduce the number of trips members must make to the ATM. A member who typically would go to the ATM or branch once a week can now save upwards of $50 each year through remote deposit. Acknowledging that members still must make some trips by car, LAFCU created and posted an online list of 25 ways to increase a member’s car mileage per gallon, and lessen the overall amount of gas consumed, through simple car maintenance tips and wiser driving habits.

10. U.S. Treasury Department

In 2005, the U.S.Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve launched Go Direct, a campaign to convert from checks to direct deposit for federal benefits disbursements. This year, out of the 12 financial institutions recognized for their dedicated effort to switch customers to direct deposit, 3 were credit unions. Having just passed the milestone of 2 million enrollments, American taxpayers are now saving more than $21 million each year by eliminating the cost of printing and mailing paper checks. Besides the sizeable savings to taxpayers, direct deposit also reduces trips to the ATM and branches, allowing participants to consume less gas.