news.cuna.org/articles/120978-becoming-fee-free
Stacy Armijo
Stacy Armijo, chief experience officer, Amplify Credit Union

Becoming fee-free

Amplify Credit Union eliminates all banking fees on deposit accounts.

May 17, 2022

Members at Amplify Credit Union no longer have to worry about incurring any fees on their deposit accounts.

The $1.2 billion asset credit union in Austin, Texas, switched to a fee-free model in February that eliminated all banking fees on deposit accounts.

“For any depositor at our institution, it’s impossible for them to incur any kind of fee,” says Stacy Armijo, chief experience officer. “It doesn’t matter what their balance is. It doesn’t matter what their behaviors are. It doesn’t matter which product they use or how long they’ve had it. It’s impossible to be charged a fee at Amplify for banking.

“People are so used to having fees charged,” she continues. “The irony is that it’s hard to get people to believe we’re really doing this.”

The credit union rolled the fee-free model out in a staged fashion, first turning off all fees during January and announcing to members on Feb. 2—2/2/2022—which the credit union called “fee-free day.”

A few weeks later, Amplify launched the model to the public.

The staged approached allowed Amplify to identify any technical bumps as well as improve the online account opening process. While the credit union has physical locations, Armijo says it operates with a digital-first mentality in how it approaches growth.

“We decided it was better to launch this well and welcome new people into our institution in a way that we had a lot of confidence in especially from a digital service point of view, as opposed to launch it fast and then have it feel clunky,” Armijo says. “This isn’t a trendy strategy. It’s not the promotion of the quarter. This is a shift in how we think about our business model and how we’re going to market. We wanted to take the time to do it right.”

‘For any depositor at our institution, it’s impossible for them to incur any kind of fee.’
Stacy Armijo

Amplify’s announcement came in the wake of several financial institutions announcing they were eliminating some fees.

“We decided to take it all in one chunk. You don’t get to promote being fee-free if you’re not really fee-free,” Armijo says. “You can’t say, ‘we’re sort of kind of fee-free.’ This is what banking has done forever.

“We wanted to really have the opportunity to have the value proposition and we’re fortunate that our business model hasn’t relied as much on this type of income as other institutions of our size.”

Armijo understands not all credit unions can eliminate all fees at once. However, she says it’s worthwhile to explore the idea and possibly take small steps toward an eventual fee-free model.

“Taking it in bits and pieces is much better than not doing it at all,” Armijo says. “This is quickly becoming table stakes for what consumers are going to expect with their accounts. We can either set the pace ourselves, make these decisions, plan it into our business cycle, and do it in a way that is feasible, or we can wait until our customers do it to us through attrition or until the regulators do it do to us through concerns about these income streams.”

Learn more about Amplify’s decision to eliminate all banking fees on deposits accounts by listening to Armijo’s interview with the CUNA News Podcast.