For some consumers, reaching for their wallet has become more painful than ever.
Inflation in the United States over the past 12 months has risen to a 40-year high of 8.5%, according to mid-April data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As late as the end of 2021, the Federal Reserve described inflationary pressures from the post-COVID reopening of the global economy as transitory; however, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting jump in food and energy prices has clouded the outlook for the global economy.
All told, consumers are paying more for food, fuel, shelter, medical care, clothing, transportation, and nearly every good and service involved in day-to-day living. With little respite in sight, credit unions are stepping in to help members make their money go further.
Trips to the grocery store are becoming more stressful for many Americans, with food prices up more than 6% year to date, according to the Consumer Price Index. In fact, prices were up 10% from March of 2021 to the same time this year. OE Federal Credit Union ($1.4B, Livermore, CA) offered tips for how members can save money during their regular grocery runs. For one thing, simply learning to cook some basic meals can help save money over dining out, but so can focusing on fresh, unprocessed foods, buying store brands, patronizing local farmers markets, and more. The full list is available here.
Drivers are also feeling the pinch at the pump. As of late April, the national average price for a gallon of gas was up nearly 44% compared to one year prior, according to AAA. Although prices have stabilized somewhat, more increases could be in the cards as the summer travel season looms and the war in Ukraine drags on.
With consumers sensitive to high gas prices, many credit unions are offering lists with tips on how drivers can ease the squeeze at the gas station. One mid-March round-up from Unitus Community Credit Union ($1.7B, Portland, OR) suggests pausing subscriptions, using rewards from grocery stores and other retailers to save on gas, reducing travel, and more. Read more here.
Similarly, Nymeo Credit Union($349M, Frederick, MD) regularly provides educational content on its website under the banner of Tutorial Tuesdays, offering weekly dives into topics ranging from paying down credit card debt to building up savings, reducing home energy costs, and more. One recent entry covered gas prices, offering eight tips consumers can use to get more miles per gallon per fill up. They include ensuring tires properly inflated, using apps such as Gas Buddy and others to shop around for the best prices, and smoother acceleration from a full stop, among others. Read the full list here.
Carolinas Telco Federal Credit Union($564.1M, Charlotte, NC) takes the focus on gaps apps even further. The credit union’s website rates three gasoline pricing apps to help members shop smart and save where you can. How do GasBuddy, GasGuru, and Waze stack up against one another? Read what the credit union has to say here.
Other institutions are simply filling up the gas tank for members. In February, Great Lakes Credit Union ($1B, Bannockburn, IL) participated in National Random Acts of Kindness Day, sending employees to five gas stations near GLCU branches to surprise consumers by paying for their gas and handing out gift cards so each recipient could pay for another person’s gas. The credit union put $1,000 toward charitable giving for the day, and said the experience illustrates its commitment to the people helping people philosophy. Read more here.
A credit card promotion at Aerospace FCU ($410M, El Segundo, CA) could help members save money on gas and consumer goods. AFCU’s cash back and rewards credit cards allow members to reduce gas prices with 4% cash back, or 5 points per dollar spent when using the card. Each time the card is used to buy gas, cardholders are also entered into the credit union’s gas giveaway sweepstakes, which includes a daily $50 cash prize. Read more here.
Many credit unions are also offering free gas cards ranging from $25 to more than $200 as an incentive for members to refinance their car loans.
And, finally, it might be summer in the United States, but Northeastern winters can be brutal. VSECU ($1.1B, Montpelier, VT) offers an unsecured, fixed rate fuel loan that allows members to borrow money to purchase fuel at a discounted rate to heat their primary residence. Read more about that program on CreditUnions.com.
Rebecca Wessler contributed to this report.