Credit Unions Help Members Improve Their Financial Standing With Lower-Rate Credit Cards

Northwest credit unions offer members significant savings through lower interest rates.

4/9/2019

Credit card usage continues to grow in the U.S. According to an analysis by Nerdwallet, credit card balances carried from month-to-month topped $420 billion in 2018, an increase of about 5 percent. The average U.S. household carried about $7,000 in revolving balances each month. This type of debt often comes with high interest rates that make it a challenge to pay off.

In an effort to help members escape mounting debt and improve their financial standing, credit unions have added their own credit cards to the financial toolbox. For members looking for relief from high-interest rate debt, consolidating debt to a lower-rate credit card can make sense, especially when you compare credit unions’ rates to those found at other institutions.

In the Northwest, credit unions offer significantly lower credit card rates versus competitors. According to the Credit Union National Association’s year-end 2018 Membership Benefits Report for Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, Northwest credit unions saved members 2.6 to 3 percent* on regular and platinum credit card rates.

At Spokane-based Global Credit Union, helping their members save through better credit card rates is a top priority.

“We are here to grow dreams, members, and community,” said Global President and CEO Jack Fallis. “Members rely on us to be their trusted financial advisor. The money our members save with us means more money in their pockets and back into our communities.”

The credit union’s lending staff take an active role in helping members spot money-saving opportunities.

“We encourage members to look at the rates they are paying on their credit cards to see how much they can save by refinancing to a lower rate,” says Global Vice President of Lending Kim Shill. “The ease of opening a Global credit card and transferring high-rate balances is an attractive option for our members,” Shill explains.

Global’s Lending Solutions Manager, Heather Coulter, reaches out to members directly to let them know they qualify for a credit card and that by transferring a balance, they’ll save.

“I get a lot of happy members who have no idea they can consolidate their debt with something as simple as a credit card. When they find out, they are very excited about it. In December, one member said it was the best Christmas present. It’s fun being able to help members and grow their relationship with us,” Coulter said.

The credit union highlighted the power of debt consolidation 10 years ago with a special refinance campaign that saved members $8.5 million over the life of their loans by the program’s second year.

“This really opened the eyes of our employees on how they can help our members keep more of their hard earned money,” said Global Vice President of Marketing and Strategy, Abigail Franklin.

At Utah-based Mountain America Credit Union, where just over a quarter of members have a credit card, the credit union has a long history of helping members consolidate debt to improve the member’s overall financial position.

“Branch employees are trained to look for opportunities to help our members,” said Mountain America Public Relations Manager Angie Nelson. “They consider a number of factors that may help save them money, which includes shortening loan terms to help pay off debt faster, taking advantage of reduced interest rates, or reducing monthly payments.”

The credit union’s staff shared examples of how consolidating debt to their credit card helped members out of financial tight spots. Financial Services Representative, Carli Christensen shared how she helped ease one member’s worries over a medical bill.

“I called a member regarding her credit card preapproval. During the conversation, she mentioned a medical bill she was worried about paying,” said Christensen. “I was excited to tell her we can pay that off with the amount she was approved for and she clapped her hands with joy, as the 3 percent cash back offer covered her first monthly payment. I’m so glad I got to play a role in that.”

Financial Services Representative, Bradon Liddle recalled how he helped a member with mounting debt after a divorce.

“A member was preapproved for a credit card for $5,000. She had recently gone through a divorce and had to put some expensive lawyer bills amounting to just over $6,000 on another credit card,” said Liddle. “We transferred over the full $5,000 available to limit the amount of interest she’d have to pay and got her $150 cash back on top of it. She was thrilled that we were able to help her at a tough personal time for her.”

Editor’s note: Does your credit union have interesting stories of helping members save with lower rate credit cards? Share your story with Anthem. Contact us.

*“Idaho Membership Benefits Report,” “Oregon Membership Benefits Report,” “Washington Membership Benefits Report,” Credit Union National Association study based on Datatrac, NCUA, and CUNA comparison of bank and credit union rates, for 12 months ending in Dec. 2018.