Spotlight Your Low Fees

As the media focuses on banks' reaction to newly capped debit swipe fees, credit unions can take the opportunity to promote their member-friendly services.


As the Durbin Amendment takes effect and banks continue reacting to the cap on debit swipe fees, credit unions are seizing an opportunity to differentiate themselves.

ABC News online article Tips and Tricks for Avoiding Bank Fees this morning offers five “gotcha’s” for consumers to watch out for when looking for a bank or credit union. Credit unions can certainly use these five cautionary criteria to try to capture more market share.

  1. No More Free Debit Cards. This is an easy one. If you’re a credit union offering no fees on debit cards, now, when banks like Bank of American and Wells Fargo are launching debit card fees,  is an ideal time to promote your no-fee policy. Coastal Federal Credit Union recently took this a step further and announced it would actually pay their members to use their debit cards. When members have 30 more debit transactions posted to their account on a monthly basis they receive a 2.51 annual percent dividend.
  2. No More Free Checking. In the midst of the swipe fee drama, the free checking debate has taken a back seat. But its an issue that’s still important to the consumer and offers your credit union another way to shine in the clutter of banking fees. America First Credit Union’s website reminds members that “It's your money. You should not have to pay to use it.” Checking at America First is truly free, pays you dividends, and comes with a complete selection of electronic services that never cost you a cent to use. At a recent marketing conference, I heard a great rule of thumb: “Clarity trumps persuasion.”America First clearly follows that.
  3. Mandatory Minimum Balances. I’m astonished that some financial institutions now charge between $5 and $15 if your checking balance slips below $1,500. I must live in a credit union wonderland because I’d never heard of a minimum balance of $1,500. As a matter of fact, my credit union, Navy Federal Credit Union, automatically pulls money from my savings account into my checking account when I have insufficient funds. I haven’t signed up for a special service, they just do it and they don’t charge me. I know Navy Federal has my best interests in mind.
  4. Ever Higher ATM Fees.  If you’re a credit union who doesn’t charge for ATM services or charges very little, spread the word. In today’s world it’s an expected fee no matter where we keep our money. You can also focus on the number of ATMs available to your members through the Co-op Network. Perhaps BECU's no-surcharge policy had something to do with the surge of new members the credit union has experienced the past year, including the recent rush the day after Bank of America announced its new $5 debit card use policy, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  5. Soaring Bounced Check Fees. Focus on services you offer to help your members avoid these fees such as overdraft protection and financial planning. There’s nothing worse than having to pay an extra $20 to $30 for an item that cost you only $10. For example, SC State Credit Union has three ways to offer a little forgiveness to members who run into tight times, as it details on its website.

These five points are just a few ways that could distinguish your credit union – promote them all! It all relates back to credit unions’ cooperative structure, member ownership and ability to listen. Following those principals is as easy as going back to the basics and meeting a simple need: to not have to pay to use your own money.


Oct. 4, 2011


  • Simple yet very effective suggestions. Thank you.