Washington Credit Unions Express Interest in Launching Prize-Linked Savings Programs

Chief Executive Officers for 12 Washington credit unions indicated that they are interested in launching prize-linked savings programs for their members by early 2012. The CEOs responded to a survey submitted by the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) last week. The NWCUA is sponsoring an informational “Idea Exchange” panel discussion during the Convention on Sept. 21.

The Washington legislature voted to legalize such programs this year after the NWCUA lobbied for passage. The Association is scheduled to lobby the Oregon legislature in 2012.

Washington’s law is patterned after one that legalized similar prize-linked programs in Michigan. The “Save to Win” program launched in Michigan in 2009 with just eight credit unions participating. By year’s end, 11,000 new accounts had been opened with $8.6 million saved.

In spite of a higher level of first-year interest in Washington, 90 percent of the CEOs requested more information about the program, with 83 percent responding they were somewhat or not at all familiar with how prize-linked savings programs work.

In Michigan, for every $25 deposited in members’ savings accounts, one chance is given for an annual $100,000 grand-prize drawing. In addition, the Michigan program features monthly drawings worth several thousand dollars. Unlike traditional lottery tickets, which lose all value if the player does not win, prize-liked participants’ savings remain intact.

The Idea Exchange will offer insight and information to credit union leaders from Washington and Oregon who would like to offer similar options to their members. Hosted by NWCUA Senior Vice President Stacy Augustine, who was instrumental in lobbying for passage of Washington’s bill, the panel will also feature an introduction to prize-linked savings by Dave Sieminski, Managing Director of Express Advantage, the non-profit affiliate of Express Credit Union. Express is a low-income credit union and is likely to be an early participant offering a prize-linked savings program to its members. Michigan’s prize-linked programs are widely credited with incentivizing un-banked and under-banked consumers to save for emergencies.

Rebeca Potasnik, Executive Director of the Washington Asset Building Coalition, will inform attendees of existing and emerging coalitions in Washington that can quickly identify and organize connectivity to under-banked consumers who would likely find prize-linked savings attractive.

Also joining the discussion via remote connection will be Brandon Trenz from CU Solutions Group and Sarika Abbi from Doorways to Dreams. Both organizations helped launch and administer Michigan’s programs and have expressed an interest in providing similar services to northwest credit unions.

The prize-linked savings Idea Exchange is scheduled to kick off at noon on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011 in Venice Room 4 at the Hotel Murano in Tacoma, site of this year’s Convention.


Questions or Concerns? Contact Matt Halvorson, Anthem Editor: mhalvorson@nwcua.org.

Posted in Business Solutions, NWCUA.