The point is to break out of the usual thinking about the tiny scraps you can shave off the corners.

The $50 question

It’s easy to think of things to give away (free online banking, free bill pay, free overdraft protection, free checks, lower rates), but it’s a lot harder to add a large amount of value. (It’s even harder to actually ask for money.)

So I’d like to propose a simple thought experiment:

What could you add to your credit union’s checking account that would be so fantastic, so amazing, so incredible, that your members would pay $50 per month?

Why Hello, General GrantWhat kinds of unimaginably awesome things could you do for your members with $50 per month?* (If you have 10,000 members in this sort of checking account, that’s $6 million per year.) How could you add a HUGE chunk of value to CU membership with a few million bucks in extra non-interest income?

To get things started, here’s my fifteen minute $50 list. Some ideas are practical, most probably aren’t. The point is to break out of the usual thinking about the tiny scraps you can shave off the corners. Think big and think positive!

Replace something that costs me $100 or more per month.

Or save me at least that much for things I already want or pay for. Wicked-fast fiber internet access? A screamingly awesome family cell phone deal? Insurance (car/home/health/life/etc.)? Legal services? Netflix, Hulu, and Steam subscriptions? Amazon Prime? Tax services?

Help me earn more.

Give me access to premium rates on savings, money markets, and certificates. Help me sell my house. Help me find a house. Can I sell stuff I don’t need without dealing with all the weirdos on CraigsList? Can I send or receive money from people without giving up so much to Paypal or eBay? Can you take more of the risk out of online transactions? Help me accept credit cards at my garage sale.

Help me pay less.

Many people in urban areas could get rid of their car entirely if they had an easy, reliable alternative for the few times they need a car or a ride. What if I just need to borrow a pickup or moving truck a couple of times a year?

Bump me up to concierge-level service.

What would it take to give each member a personal “credit union-er” — a real live person with a name, a face, a personal phone number, chat handle, and an email address? Can the member just drop off their bills and get them set up to be paid automagically? Can they get financial advice, help with a budget, balancing their checking account? (Many CUs will already do all the above for free… why not get paid to do it even better?) How about true overdraft immunity — how many exasperated members have asked for someone to just give them a call or email if they’re about to overdraft?

Bundle my checking with loans/credit cards.

Granted, this is pretty much how CUs already work, but it’s implicit: “Here are all these cool checking services for free, and gosh, we’re really, really, really, really sort of hoping you’ll maybe get a loan someday, if it’s not too much trouble.” What could happen if you made this relationship more explicit — “Pay us $50/month and bring us all your loans, and you’ll see savings of at least $100 per month.”

Help me go green.

Make it easier to find and purchase or lease electric or hybrid vehicles and install charging stations. Coordinate appliance trade-ins (many electric utilities, for example, will give people cash when they upgrade old, inefficient appliances). Make loans for energy upgrades (insulation, high-efficiency furnaces, solar panels), and make sure I have the paperwork to collect the tax credit.

*And for those of you that think $50 is too much:

What about $20 or $10 per month? Or $50 per year?  Millions of people pay Costco and Sam’s Club $40-$50 per year to push around oversized carts in a huge concrete warehouse. What could you do with an annual membership fee?

Brian Wringer

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