Credit unions of many different asset sizes have been proving they can market and manage credit card programs successfully. And some of them that have done particularly well have been recognized by Card Services for Credit Unions, the association of credit unions that process their card transactions with FIS.
The association named the CUs in this year's CAMEO awards came from all asset sizes and were recognized for achievements with both credit and debit programs.
“In the face of looming changes in the industry, especially the Durbin amendment, these credit unions found creative ways to promote their card programs,” said Bill Lehman, vice president of portfolio consulting at CSCU. “Our CAMEO winners seized an opportunity to continue to make their card programs an important asset for their credit unions.”
By highlighting these winners and the results of their effective campaigns, the CAMEO awards provide an opportunity for other member credit unions to learn industry best practices, the association added.
Karen Dahl's Northern United Federal Credit Union won a first place CAMEO in the under $99 million asset category for the strong card results it got without spending a lot of money.
The 3,500 member, $20 million asset credit union, headquartered in Escanaba, Mich., spent $2,200 on a print and radio campaign that grew the number of accounts and increased the portfolios outstanding balances by $100,000.
President/CEO Dahl said the CU had linked the campaign, which ran from September through October of last year, to Halloween and the popular legacy television program “The Addams Family.” The print ad depicted CU staff dressed as Gomez and Morticia Addams and other CU staff voices on the radio as the character Lurch and a generic vampire voice.
“We often run Fall card promotion campaigns,” explained Dahl, adding that the CU took advantage of both the run up to the December holidays and the often reduced advertising rates at that time.
The campaign also served the important purpose of helping Northern United stand out, Dahl said. Northern United is the smallest of five credit unions in a very small area and likes doing things to draw attention, she added.
“We have five credit unions within three blocks here,” she said. “Not three miles, three blocks, and we are the smallest of the five. We like doing things that help people notice us.”
The 8,000 member, $29 million Piedmont Hospitals Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Atlanta, spent even less money promoting the CU's brand new card program, according to CEO Cindy Owens.
“We are sponsored by five hospitals so have branches actually in two of those hospitals and ATMs in others,” she said. “That means we are always in there and, at least for now, we haven't had to pay for something like printing.”
Owens said the 27-year-old-credit union never had a credit card program before, and there was a lot of excitement from the staff and some members about offering one. The CU built on that excitement by printing flyers and other materials that asked, “Can you guess what's coming?”and then posting them around.
Owens said she brought up the idea of the credit card, bringing the idea with her from her last credit union where she had seen what a good credit card program can do. Piedmont Hospitals launched the program with interest rates running from 8.9% for cardholders with the best credit scores to up to 17.99% for cardholders with the worst, she said. The CU also did not charge for balance transfers and kept its fees low, she added.
The results were striking. After only a little more than a year, the CU's card program gained 300 accounts and about $1 million in outstanding balances, Owens said, and card's acceptance among the CUs members had been extremely encouraging. Unlike the usual membership progression in which new members open savings accounts first, then checking accounts, then an auto-loan or mortgage and only later come to the credit card, Owens said that the CU had gained members who joined the credit union to get access to the card.
“A lot of them brought balances to us,” she said, “and most of them liked that we were so local and said they wanted to do business with us and not with a bank somewhere else.”
The 134,000 member University Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Austin, Texas, won its CAMEO award more for improved card management than for promotion, according to Lee Thorsness, credit card program manager for the CU.
Thorsness explained that the CU had a large number of students among its members for some time and that students tended to follow a different progression into the CU. Where most nonstudent members start with a savings account and then move to a checking account, then a fixed-asset loan and then the credit card, students would often open a savings account because they had to as a condition of membership, skip the checking account and get a student loan and a credit card.
The result, she said, was a credit card portfolio with many cardholders having less of a connection to the credit union than the CU liked and a delinquency rate that, while not high by credit union industry standards, was still too high for the CU.
“We did some research and found out that cardholders without a checking account were among the most likely to be delinquent,” she explained as well with those who have a checking account but kept a balance of less than $50 in it month to month.
To fight the problem, the CU started offering credit cards only to members with checking accounts and started making checking accounts a condition of getting a credit limit increase on an existing card.
The CU also increased its late payment fee, cut over limit allowance from 10% to 5% of the credit limit, modified and expanded its collections program and approached some former members and offered to settle their previous card debts.
Thorsness reported the results were better than had been anticipated, with the CU taking on more than 2,700 new accounts after changing the checking account policy and seeing many members choose to apply for a credit limit increase instead of routinely going over limit.
Overall Credit Campaign (assets more than $1 billion) First – Eastman Credit Union (Kingsport, TN) Second – Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union (Live Oak, TX) Third – University Federal Credit Union (Austin, TX)
Overall Credit Campaign (assets $376-$999 million) First – Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union (Lowell, MA) Second – MaPS Credit Union (Salem, OR) Third – MECU (Schaumburg, IL)
Overall Credit Campaign (assets $300-375 million) First – First Community Credit Union (Jamestown, ND) Second – CP Federal Credit Union (Jackson, MI) Third – Erie Federal Credit Union (Erie, PA)
Overall Credit Campaign (assets $176-$299 million) First – U of I Employees Credit Union (Champaign, IL) Second – OMNI Community Credit Union (Battle Creek, MI) Third – Bayer Heritage FCU (Proctor, WV)
Overall Credit Campaign (assets $100 - $175 million) First – CSE Federal Credit Union (Canton, OH) Second – American 1 Federal Credit Union (Jackson, MI) Third – Bellco Federal Credit Union (Wyomissing, PA)
Overall Credit Campaign (assets less than $99 million) First – Community Alliance Credit Union (Dearborn, MI) Second – Delta County Credit Union (Escanaba, MI) Third – Unified Communities Federal Credit Union (Canton, MI)
Overall Debit Card Campaign First – BrightStar Credit Union (Sunrise, FL) Second – Ledge Light FCU (Groton, CT) Third – Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union (Tampa, FL)