Back to School: Will your credit union card be top of wallet?

Back to School:  Will your credit union card be top of wallet?
Posted: Jul 27, 2017
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Back to School campaigns can be rewarding for credit unions and their members.

Back to school planning is in full swing in many parts of the U.S. Didn’t kids just get out of school? How can it be time to think about purchasing glue sticks, crayons, gym shoes, clothes, and other back to school expenses such as vaccinations, health exams and sports equipment for fall sports when it’s the middle of summer?  This time should be filled with making memories from family vacations, taking a trip to the County or State Fair, or hosting cookouts in the backyard with friends and neighbors.

However, retailers throughout the US are gearing up for a big spend from consumers who are planning Back to School purchases for their little ones or for their almost grown up students heading to college.  Credit union members will soon be making purchases in-store and online and credit unions need to take action to ensure their card products are top of wallet.

According to a recent USA Today article regarding Back to School spending, retailers want consumers to think ‘Back to School’.  In 2017, parents plan to spend an average of $501 per student, and Back to School / Back to College spending is predicted to reach $83.6B this year -  an increase of more than 10% over last year!  Who knew paper, pencils, glue sticks, and clothes generated over $83B in sales? 

Seize the opportunity for wallet share

Debit and credit card issuers need to seize this opportunity for wallet share by creating Back to School spend strategies and cardholder messaging to drive usage to their debit and credit card products, as well as digital and mobile wallets, via in-branch signage, website banners, statement messaging, as well as social media. Remind your cardholders of the value of your rewards program.  Back to School shopping can be rewarding and removes some of the sting the additional expenses create for families who might not be prepared. Consider offering additional rewards points for Back to School MCC codes such as clothing, shoes, and office supplies.  If your credit union is hosting a back to school campaign collecting school supplies for needy children in your area, create a dual message about using your credit union debit and credit cards for these purchases as well.  Contributions to others can be rewarding to your members in many ways!

Also, remind your cardholders of the safety and security your card products offer and the convenience of debit and credit cards over cash and checks.  Back to School purchase season goes well beyond the first day of school so there is still time to create an effective Back to School promotion to drive awareness to debit and credit card spend.  Moving, or keeping your credit union card products top of wallet now will help safeguard your credit union and ensure card products are top of wallet for Q4 holiday spend as well.

Offer products to college students as a way to help them become members

Additionally, credit unions need to focus on their young members who are going away to college by promoting FREE student checking accounts with debit cards, student credit cards, and mobile/digital wallets.  With robust online banking programs, mobile and digital wallets, along with the Shared Branching network, and the Nation-wide ATM network, there is no motive for a student moving away from their hometown to attend college, to open a checking account with another financial institution near their college or university when they know how to use their credit union account wherever life takes them.  Credit unions need to effectively communicate this message to their student membership before they are enticed to open a new account by a big bank closer to campus.

Credit unions risk losing wallet share without a Back to School campaign to promote usage, and may lose membership without creating, promoting Student Checking and Student Credit Cards offered by a larger financial institution.  Back to School can be expensive, however Back to School can be rewarding for credit unions and their members.

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Stephanie  Hainje

Stephanie HainjeStephanie Hainje

Trellance's Director of Education, Stephanie Hainje is an experienced card industry professional with credit and debit card program management from her previous career at Purdue Federal Credit Union, a leading affinity credit card issuer and top 100 Visa USA issuer.

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