For Donna LoStocco and the leadership the $1.9 billion Affinity Federal Credit Union, national news headlines are opportunities to educate both Affinity members and the world at large about the advantages the credit union offers.“My background is in sales,” said LoStocco, the vice president for member experience at Affinity. “But what I found in working for Affinity is that my job is really more one of education than sales. We already have products and services that are so much better for our members and consumers at large that we really just have to make our members aware of them to sell them. But so many of our members don’t even know about them.”So when LoStocco and her staff at Affinity see a financial news story pop up in the headlines in the national media, the first thing they do is educate themselves on how the credit union is addressing the issue and then contact the local media offering Affinity as a source of information on the topic.“We know we have to prepare because we have a membership that is very technically savvy, well-read and clued in to the news,” LoStocco said. “And we figure that what our members don’t know about the credit unions products and services, other people won’t know either.”The most recent example of the credit union’s proactive approach was the occasion of the Pew Center’s report on credit cards that both attacked major bank-issued cards and praised those offered by credit unions. LoStocco and Affinity’s response was to make sure that the credit unions frontline staff knew about Affinity’s card programs and, second, to contact a local public relations firm to help make the media aware of Affinity and its willingness to serve as a source for reporters covering the story.“We have found that there is a lot of willingness in general to ask about credit unions and credit union programs,” LoStocco said. “But that has simply increased with the financial crisis, and the financial media are really starting to talk about credit unions and the lower fees, lower interest rates on loans and better interest rates on savings.”LoStocco said Affinity has taken a similar approach when news stories have broken about ATM fees as well as the crisis in lending that has dominated news coverage during the economic crisis.Affinity offers a full suite of fixed-rate Visa cards for members seeking to build or rebuild their credit. Currently, according to NCUA records, Affinity has about 35,000 cards or about a 2.71% card penetration.LoStocco said the credit union has been experiencing something of a spike of interest in its card programs, but she didn’t know how many of the new card accounts represented Affinity members who had not previously had the CU’s card or the numbers of nonmembers coming to Affinity for the cards.–[email protected]

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