So here’s the thing college-bound students tend to go away while credit unions tend to be local institutions. Therefore, credit unions may be overlooked during the student’s search for a financial institution to meet their campus needs. It’s hard to compete in a market riddled with big banks that boast the convenience of on-campus branches and the national span of their institution. But credit unions can win over college students. Here’s how:
Market your partnerships.For example, many credit unions have joined CO-OP Network, a span of ATMs nationwide that their members can use. It’s fee-free money for them! The promise of literally thousands of ATMs across the country from which students can withdraw their money without any outrageous fees is hard to beat.
Also, shared branching has become more common in the credit union world, so make it known! Knowing they can still get branching options far away from home would put many students (and their parents) at ease.
Ramp up your online capabilities.Gen Y is all about their technology so online banking suits them well. Online bill pay and eStatements make it easy for college-aged members to stay on top of their account from anywhere even across the country and they use those features avidly. Do you have mobile banking? Now’s the time to add it.
Teach your local children.Offer financial literacy courses geared towards kids going off to school. My senior class played guinea pig for my high school financial literacy program. We had to complete a six-week, one hour per week seminar on financial literacy that taught us to navigate the financial world on our own. Our teacher warned us of the perils of credit card companies, stressed the importance of starting savings early, and even pointed out the difference between credit unions and banks. We all agreed that we felt better prepared for life and that credit unions were worth looking into. Connecting with college students before they actually get to college gives you a competitive edge.
Have them join as soon as possible.The summer before someone’s freshman year of college is an interesting time. It’s a limbo period between who you were in high school and who you will be as a college student or professional. It’s a time to say goodbye and a time to say hello. And it’s a time when you become incredibly overwhelmed by all of the preparations necessary for your first year away from home.
The pre-freshman summer is definitely not a time during which you are open to understanding why a credit union is better for you than the big banks you’ve been hearing about. So don’t wait until then. Credit unions can set up a booth at their local college fair or visit their neighborhood high schools. Aiming for the freshmen is ideal because when they’re ready to leave for school, they’ve already been doing business with you for a few years, and they’ll be less likely to change.