Using lotteries or sweepstakes to encourage savings deposits, helping members who don't save automate their savings efforts and including all the expenses of owning a car in an auto loan are among the ideas to have made it into the most recent report from the Filene Research Institute.
The report, "Blueprints for Innovation," is the most recent product of Filene's Ideas, Innovation and Implementation program. The i3 program nurtures innovative ideas in different parts of members products and services and credit union cooperation. "Blueprints" presents ideas for ten products and services aimed at members and four aimed at helping credit unions cooperate and innovate more easily.
One of those is the concept of Prize Linked Savings, an idea that has gotten some attention lately because of the recent completion of the first savings-winning cycle in a PLS program in Michigan.
In the Michigan program, called Save to Win, eight Michigan credit unions banded together to offer a $100,000 prize that their members could win by adding to their savings accounts more often. The $100,000 winner was named in last January, and program organizers were counting the program as a win as well.
In the program's 11 months, more than 11,700 Save to Win accounts had been opened, with over $8.6 million in deposits, Filene reported. Funds were placed in certificates of deposit that paid between 1% and 1.5% interest, depending on the credit union. Plus, each $25 deposited earned an entry into the prize drawing, with a limit of 10 entries per month.
About 50% of certificateholders responded to a survey on their savings and gambling habits by September 2009, Filene reported, and the results showed the program attracted a variety of members across age and income levels, including people who had not been saving regularly, people who (if they had been saving) had nonetheless never held a certificate of deposit, people who had assets of $5000 or less, lower to moderate-income households and people who play lotteries.
"Certificate holders may be redirecting money to Save to Win from lottery spending, with 59% noting they'd spent money on the lottery in the last six months," Filene noted.
The program has been such a success that Filene reported that the Michigan Credit League through a subsidiary taking a role in organizing the next effort state wide. As of when the report went to press, Filene reported that 20 credit unions had signed up to participate in this year's program.
Another savings idea aimed to let members who admit to having problems saving money adopt some strategies that could help them improve their savings rates.
The $imply $ave program provides three options members can use to increase their savings automatically, with the money going into accounts that are inconvenient to access to remove money.
In the first option, members transfer a small amount, even as little as $10, from checking into savings each month. The amount transferred increases each quarter by a small percentage, and the money cannot be accessed through online banking, making it difficult to withdraw and spend. Similar arrangements can be made with rewards checking accounts involving members from designated SEGs in option two, In option three, the member and their employers agree to a an automatic deposit into savings as part of direct deposit. Other options include a potential role for the member's employer involving matching deposits or other incentives.
Filene said the program was especially good for people who do not maintain recommended savings of three to six months' living expenses, who carry balances on credit cards, who have been declined a loan due to high debt-to-income ratio, who have low savings balances and no savings plans.
Another way of saving came out in the Peace of Mind Auto Loan, a concept which uses a financing model usually associated with mortgage loans to make auto loans more efficient and easier for members to use. In this concept, members finance an auto with the credit union but make payments on their loans, which also include car insurance premiums, as payments to a savings program that they can use to build up financing for auto repairs or gasoline purchases.
"All the costs associated with the car ownership are rolled up into one auto loan payment," Filene noted. "Once the principal and interest payments are made, the remaining amount is credited to an automotive escrow account. Insurance premiums would be automatically debited from the account on a monthly basis, while a companion debit card would be used to pay for fuel, maintenance, and other out-of-pocket expenses."