Analysts are predicting slow sales this holiday season, but credit unions say they are ready, willing and able to help members on Black Friday and beyond.
In a recent report titled Expect Coal: We Predict the Weakest Holiday Since 2008, Morgan Stanley analysts forecast a meager 1.6% increase in same-store sales at softline retailers in the fourth quarter.
However, borrowing could be up this year because more than 60% of consumers haven’t saved a dime for holiday gifts, according to a recent Google Consumer Survey.
The survey, conducted by GoBankingRates.com, a financial services website, also noted that 40% of respondents don’t plan to buy gifts this season.
“While it’s unfortunate so many shoppers are putting themselves at risk of starting off the new year in debt, what’s really surprising is how many people said they’re not buying gifts at all; it’s not just the young and broke—it’s people with children and grandkids, too,” said Casey Bond, GoBankingRates.com managing editor. “Recent fiscal turmoil in Washington may have suppressed optimism for holiday consumerism this year. However, I would argue that consumers are being overly-optimistic about their ability to resist holiday shopping.”
The survey also revealed that 37% of respondents would spend less than $500. Fifteen percent reported they would spend between $500 and $1,000, and just 8% said they would spend more than $1,000.
To help members have a merrier holiday season, many credit unions have unwrapped new promotions, including special interest rates, credit card deals and loan promotions.
“Interest rates on holiday loan specials are expected to remain low as the Fed continues to keep rates down into 2015, which gives borrowers the benefit of reduced rates well under 10% APR and often up to a 12-month term for repayment,” said Jennifer Calonia, an editor with GoBankingRates.com.
Among the many institutions promoting holiday specials, the $600 million Freedom Credit Union in Philadelphia, Penn., recently announced that it is offering personal loans of up to $20,000 for qualified borrowers.
Members can receive terms for up to six years with no upfront costs or collateral required and a low fixed annual percentage rate based on credit history, the credit union said.
“If it’s been a while since the holiday season has brought joy to the household or family, Freedom Credit Union wants to make this year’s holiday season special for their valued members,” the credit union said.
Holiday auto loan promos are also common among institutions such as One Nevada Credit Union, which is offering a 1.99% rate for auto loans for qualified borrowers during the season.
Skip-a-payment programs are also popular this time of year. For instance, many credit unions offer programs allowing qualified members pay a $40 fee to skip a loan payment two times per 12 month period.
Credit card promotions are also in the spotlight during the holiday season and many co-ops are offering extra reward points, low rates, interest-free introductory periods and other incentives.
Mountain America Credit Union recently announced a holiday gift to qualified members: Visa Triple Rewards. The promotion started Nov. 1 and runs through Dec. 21. During that time, members can receive double points on the first $500 spent and triple points on every dollar after that.
The program has been warmly received during the cold holiday season, the credit union said.
“We have experienced an increase over the last few years with our annual Visa triple rewards program,” said Jeremy Nelson, vice president of direct marketing for the $3.6 billion Mountain America in West Jordan, Utah. “Our triple rewards promotion, along with our annual holiday skip-a-loan payment promotion, allow our members more flexibility during the holidays when many need it most.”