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To combat a low penetration rate on transaction accounts, Pacific Service Credit Union has launched four new checking accounts.The $1 billion Walnut Creek, Calif.-based credit union had a penetration rate of 15% on transaction accounts and had five branches that were particularly under performing in this area.To get a better idea of what the credit union needed to do to increase penetration, Pacific Service held a focus group with employees to see what members were saying about the credit union and why they weren’t signing up for its transaction accounts.One of the biggest factors the credit union found was convenience.“People have the mindset that if you don’t have a branch on every corner, then it’s not convenient. We can’t compete with the big banks on branches and convenience, so we wanted to compete on value,” said Kristin Dove, vice president of marketing.Previously, Pacific Service had two types of checking accounts. One account had to include direct deposit, and the other was an interest-bearing account with a minimum deposit of $500.Each of the four new accounts now has a specific purpose and targeted member need. The first of the accounts is “FirstStep Checking” for members under the age of 23. The account has ATM fee reimbursement and automatically moves the member into the next phase checking account when they are over the age of 23.The “Free Checking” account was developed by the credit union to be competitive in the marketplace. The account is for members who don’t have direct deposit, and the credit union charges a $2 monthly fee only if the member opts for paper statements instead of e-statements.The next account, “Relationship Checking,” the credit union created to reward loyal members. It’s for members that have direct deposit and $25,000 in combined savings and loans. Dove said the credit union went out and researched what other institutions were offering and found that the average amount required in combined savings and loans was $45,000. The credit union also includes mortgages and home equity loans in the combined savings and loans, and most institutions do not. The account also has ATM reimbursement, free logo checks, free notarization and free cashier’s checks for life.The final account, “Plu$ Checking”, is a dividend paying account that has a minimum balance of $7,500 and offers free logo checks for life along with free notarization and cashier’s checks.Pacific Service uses the average monthly balance to calculate fees and to see if the member falls below the requirements. If the member does fall below the requirements, the credit union charges a fee of $10.“We wanted the accounts to have other credit union hooks to create relationships. We wanted to make them sticky,” Dove said of how the goals they have for the accounts.The credit union opened 541 new checking accounts between Feb. 19 and April 30. Of those new accounts opened, 244 are Relationship Checking accounts and 211 are Free Checking accounts.In feedback, Dove said having the ATM reimbursement was a big plus.“We told new members that they don’t have to change the ATM they use; they just have to change their bank. The market is right for disgruntled consumers, and we want to position ourselves as a real honest value.”For members that already had a checking account at the credit union, Pacific Service used a migration strategy that looked at what account would be best for the member to avoid paying any fees. It then sent out letters to members letting them know what account the credit union was moving them into and why. The members then had time to request that they be put into a different account if they wanted to before the new accounts went live.Dove said they had very few members that wanted to go into a different account than the one the credit union had picked for them. The ones that did want to change, she said, mainly wanted to be put into the Relationship Checking account rather than the Plu$ Checking account because they valued ATM fee reimbursement over a dividend account.–[email protected]

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