Jan 01 2003

Marketing Checking Accounts to Members: A Guide for Credit Unions

This study provides a guide for credit unions for marketing checking accounts to members. It uses data from the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances to identify the most important criteria that households use to decide where to obtain checking services. We analyze the data to determine what characteristics of the household or of their accounts influences these decision criteria.

We find that using the decision criteria reported by households in general is a very limited guide for credit union marketers, and that marketers should distinguish between important sub-groups. For example, for households in general, convenience (particularly office location) is the chief criterion for deciding where to obtain checking services. However, controlling for other influences, households with only credit union checking accounts rank this criterion below personal relationships, low fees and minimum balances; and range of services, compared to households with only bank checking accounts. We find that credit unions are providing checking services for a unique niche of households that appear to have very different decision criteria from other households.

Analysis of this data provides information on why consumers decide where to get their checking services. However, credit union marketers can develop the most effective plans if they also know how consumers decide where to obtain checking services.

To gain insights into this issue, we conducted four focus groups that developed information on the decision process. We find that consumers differ substantially in their perceptions of the range of prices and products in the marketplace, which suggests that some tend to be “relationship shoppers” and others “product shoppers.” In addition, we develop insights into consumer perceptions concerning such issues as membership, community ties, convenience, and trust; and we develop the marketing implications of these perceptions.