Monday, March 28, 2011

Will free checking thrive or die at your credit union?

By Margie Church, Copywriter/Editor

I spend a fair amount of my day reading about business practices, trends in the financial market, emerging technologies, and all kinds of other things that help us keep abreast of the credit union market and anticipate the next best move for our clients.

Some days are real head-scratchers, aren't they?

We have some great insights to national trends, but nothing beats feet on the street. The pulse of what's going on in your neighborhood credit union. We invite you to share some of your insights with us today. 

Specifically, we're interested in your perspectives on free checking. We all know how bottom line-driven banks are. They're yanking free checking and debit card rewards programs, and fees are piling up. These days, there seems to be two options for bank customers– take it or leave it. More and more, it feels like even the threadbare "services" a bank provides are an inconvenience to them.

Who's taking it? Who's leaving it?
A recent study conducted by ACTON Marketing Intelligence, revealed approximately 93% of Americans have one or more checking accounts, and 94% of those are free. When asked the big question, how important is free checking to you?, a whopping, but not surprising, 85% said free checking is critically or very important. What's more, 92% of female respondents, and 79% of the males said free checking is critically or very important.

Makes you think, doesn't it? 

Digging deeper into the report, one learns that affluence or lack thereof doesn't matter either. Americans have a deep love affair with free checking and they're not going to give it up quietly. Fifty-seven percent said they'd switch banks or credit unions if free checking was eliminated or if fees were imposed on previously free services. The respondents would be willing to modify some banking behaviors to keep free checking, but they're clearly stating they want the choice. 

Banks have revealed their Achilles heel once more, giving credit unions yet another chance to take market share. At least that's what we think. 

But we're wondering what your credit union is doing. Are you keeping free checking come heck or high water? How is your credit union planning to cope with the inevitable loss of debit card transaction fees? Help us understand the neighborhood perspective. Because that's really where it matters. Leave a comment, please. We look forward to hearing from you. 

"The mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work unless it’s open."

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