Overdraft Programs Worth a CU's While
I agree 100% with Mike Welch's position regarding overdraft programs that he elaborated on in his April 9th column, "Putting a Little Bounce in Checking Accounts." Tower Federal implemented such a program in the past six months but only after much debate and research. In the end we believed honoring overdrafts up to $500 was good for our members and very much in line with the credit union philosophy of people helping people. In addition to the fine points made in Mike's column, we realized from our research that the majority of members needing such a program were not low income individuals but were members in the middle income and higher net worth households. In this high tech world in which we live, many more factors can affect a member's checking account balance. Mike mentioned debit card users, but now you have bill pay, automated ACH debits and not a lot of time for the average consumer to keep tabs on their account balance. Since implementing the program, we have had a great deal of positive feedback from our members. They like avoiding the double charge on the NSF item while not going through the embarrassment of bouncing the item. We have about 80,000 households and 110,000 members, and only two members have opted out of the program to date. If the reason was to make more fee income, Tower would not have implemented the overdraft program. We are a fee adverse credit union and only introduce new products and services when we feel they add value to the membership. For those "naysayers" that Mike referred to, I think they need to look at a courtesy pay program with an open mind and listen to a lot of positive good that some credit unions are doing for consumers. If your credit union goes into it with the right intent and wants to maintain the trust of its members, how can any credit union suffer negative repercussions from such a program? Your members will love you because those that experience it will be impressed that the credit union trusts them to repay the item. Richard L. Brake SVP Member Services Tower Federal Credit Union Laurel, Md.