An Account Of Ownership Benefits

A growing list of cash-back rewards for member engagement is a linchpin of Rogue Credit Union’s loyalty strategy.



Rogue Credit Union
Data as of 06.30.18

HQ: Medford, OR
MEMBERS: 128,702
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 14.1%
ROA: 1.36%

Member loyalty is adding up in one Oregon cooperative thanks to the wild success of the Ownership Account, a non-transactional savings account that comes with every membership at Rogue Credit Union ($1.5B, Medford, OR).

The account rewards members for their participation in the Rogue Rewards benefit programs that include cash back on credit cards, rounding up debit card charges, e-statement sign-up bonuses, youth account incentives, and sweeps from other deposit accounts. Members can keep their money in the Ownership Account as long as they want and currently earn a return of 3%, well above market rates but once they take it out, they can’t re-deposit it.

That’s not a bad incentive to nurture a nest egg.

Rogue launched the Ownership Account program in February 2016 as a way to reward members for engaging with the credit union and to promote the credit union difference.


It’s probably the best tool we’ve ever seen to help credit union members recognize the credit union difference, says executive vice president Matt Stephenson. They own their credit union, and they get a lot of value out of that ownership.

7 Cooperative Principles

Rogue’s Ownership Account taps into the cooperative principles and strikes a chord with members. Giving members a clear way to see the benefits of ownership speaks to No. 3, and adding a charitable component speaks to No. 7.

  • Open And Voluntary Membership
  • Democratic Member Control
  • Members Economic Participation
  • Autonomy And Independence
  • Education, Training, And Information
  • Cooperation Among Cooperatives
  • Concern For Community

In fact, Stephenson says the account is the glue that holds together Rogue’s whole engagement strategy. More than $3.4 million of the $5.4 million the credit union has deposited into Ownership Accounts to date is still there. And of the credit union’s nearly 129,000 members, approximately 62% of them or 81,400 have balances.

The high interest rate plays a role, but president/CEO Gene Pelham thinks there’s more to it.

Members respond to it because they see where their member benefits are going in a clear way, Pelham says. It’s not like that 1% cash back is going into the ether of a regular checking or savings account.

The Rogue Rewards program and Ownership Account loom large in the word-of-mouth marketing that sits at the center of the credit union’s growth strategy. Ownership Account holders with balances large and small are quick to spread the word about the benefits of Rogue membership.


Rogue channels rewards into a designated account that clearly demonstrates to members the value and benefits of being a member-owner.

Rogue Rewards are diverse and include a one-time deposit of $5 for enrolling in e-statements, cash back on credit cards, and a round-up feature on debit purchases. Rogue also contributes to a member’s Ownership Account in exchange for a donation to CU4Kids.

My absolute favorite story is about a gas station attendant who, each time he sees a Rogue card, asks the customer if they’d like to set their purchase at 1 cent over the dollar, so they can get the maximum 99 cents in their Ownership Account, Pelham says. He also told us he now has about $70 in his own account and that this is the first time he’s ever saved any money himself.

Another anecdote about the grassroots marketing effect comes from one of the credit union’s top-balance Ownership Account holders.

When Pelham called the member to thank him for his loyalty to the credit union, an office employee told him the member wasn’t there but the Rogue loyalty benefits were the talk of the office. That led to a conversation about how those members, too, could get more into their Ownership Accounts.

Getting people to see the value and benefits of their credit union membership and ownership is something the entire movement is supposed to be trying to do, Pelham says. The Ownership Account is the best way we know of to do that.

To keep the chatter going and find ways to reward different types of participation, new benefits are on the drawing board.

In September, Rogue launched a limited-time Give and Save offer that allows members to transfer up to $1,000 into their Ownership Accounts in exchange for donating to the CU4Kids charitable program for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. There is also a skip-a-payment component tied to it.

Our members are incredibly generous, so we’re anxious to see what’s going to happen, Pelham says. Our people are getting creative in finding ways to reward members for new and more participation. It’s inspiring.


Rogue is adding a low-cost charitable option to its loyalty program to help members do something good while bolstering its image as an institution that cares about more than profits.

The Ownership Account itself was inspired by conversations with Diana Dykstra, the current president and CEO of the California Credit Union League, when she was at the helm of San Francisco Fire Credit Union.

We talked with her about creating capital-type accounts, about putting bonus dividends in there and paying a little higher rate, and about how members would see the value in their credit union if we did that, Pelham says. And, boy, have they ever.

This article appeared originally in Credit Union Strategy Performance. Read More Today.

October 1, 2018

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