The industry push to promote improved savings behavior among consumers while also drawing new business was ratcheted up with a pilot initiative involving 20 credit unions and sponsored by Filene Research Institute and SaveUp, a fledgling San Francisco firm.
The SaveUp-Filene pilot looks to represent a fresh approach on savings rewards–distinct from the ongoing league-backed Save to Win promotions–that credit unions can undertake to build online account traffic.
Both promotions dovetail with a host of virtual financial literacy ventures now being marketed online.
As part of the SaveUp pilot, credit unions from Virginia to California have started distributing what the San Francisco company calls “a customized SaveUp experience for their members” by rewarding positive financial action for savings behavior using a point system redeemable in prizes.
Under the arrangement, credit union members who use SaveUp offered on their credit unions’ websites are rewarded each time they contribute to savings or retirement accounts, pay down credit cards or other loans, or utilize SaveUp’s financial education materials.
SaveUp, which is calling its package “the nation’s first free rewards program for saving money and reducing debt using a point system,” earlier this year announced its first pilot partnership with the $61 billion Bank of the West, also of San Francisco and set to launch later in 2012.
SaveUp, started last November, said it is now registered in all 50 states as a sweepstakes operation but is not affiliated with Save to Win launched four years ago by the Michigan Credit Union League and now operating in several other states under league guidance.
The California firm said also its program allows credit unions to run savings rewards efforts without running into the legal and legislative obstacles it has encountered in some states. SaveUp can be distributed by any credit union in all 50 states, the company said.
“We can also work with credit unions that have implemented the Save to Win program to motivate members to build their wealth,” said Priya Haji, CEO of SaveUp. “Members just have more opportunities to get rewarded and win prizes for saving money.”
SaveUp also said that no technology or backend integration is required, so credit unions can easily customize and implement its program.
At Filene, Matt Davis, director of innovation, said the Madison, Wis., think tank partnered with SaveUp to study how this company’s model prompts positive financial behaviors and improves member engagement, marketing effectiveness and financial results. Davis said results will be reported later this year.
“SaveUp makes positive financial behavior fun, rewarding, and engaging, a recipe that could have a major impact on credit unions and the communities they serve,” Davis said.
Participating credit unions include Xceed Financial CU, El Segundo, Calif.; CU of the Rockies, Golden, Colo.; Eli Lilly FCU, Indianapolis; Frankenmuth CU, Frankenmuth, Mich.; Arsenal CU, Arnold, Mo.; St. Mary’s Bank, Manchester, N.H.; Northeast CU, Portsmouth, N.H.; Southwest FCU, Albuquerque, N.M.; GPO FCU, New Hartford, N.Y.; Oregon Employees FCU, Salem, Ore.; Providence FCU, Milwaukie, Ore.; Neighborhood CU, Dallas; Belvoir FCU, Woodbridge, Va.; Summit CU, Madison, Wis.; and, Fox Communities CU, Appleton, Wis.
Amy Shanks, a spokeswoman for the $290 million Belvoir in Virginia, said her CU has been running SaveUp on its website with rotating banner ads since March 15. So far, hundreds of users have sign up to be eligible for the points and prizes which range from airline tickets to electronic devices and gift cards.
Michigan Credit Union League CEO Dave Adams pointed to the differences between SaveUp and the league’s Save to Win program.
"To our knowledge, the SaveUp program is a sweepstakes" program where no purchase is required. This is much different than a true prize-linked savings program where, in order to be eligible for cash prizes, the member has to actually save some money,” Adams said.
“Participating members save money in their Save to Win certificate and earn entries into a drawing based on those direct savings. Additionally, Save p does not differentiate credit unions from banks like Save to Win can. Banks cannot participate in the Save to Win program like they can with Save Up,” he added.
Because Save to Win is a certificate of deposit account, it is a vehicle for credit unions to build a direct relationship with members, Adams said.