Members Go For Gift Cards

October 1, 2007

Members Go For Gift Cards

By Cathy Fleming

Gift cards might not be big money-makers for credit unions. But members like the convenience the cards provide, and credit union executives find value in adding the cards to their product lineup.

Sarah Canepa Bang, CEO of Financial Service Centers Cooperative Inc., San Dimas, Calif., offers insights into her company's gift card operations.

Why did you decide to offer gift cards?

Members like them because our card is generic. I'll buy a Target card and although there are Targets all over the country, there might not always be one in the area in which the recipient lives.

I love the notion of being able to send a gift card to someone without having to research which stores are close by. From that standpoint, I don't limit my nieces and nephews by telling them where to shop.

Some people buy them to shop over the Internet. These folks are worried about using their credit cards online. They can use a gift card as a debit card. The ability to use it at multiple locations is really appealing.

What are the terms on your gift cards?

We've designed it to break even. When the credit union purchases it from us, we donate 50 cents to Credit Unions for Kids, the Children's Miracle Network charity. Then when the card is activated, we donate another 50 cents to Credit Unions for Kids.

We sell them for about $1.35. The average cost of a gift card runs around the $3.50 range. The credit union can still up-charge it and make some money or donate money as well.

Who are the primary purchasers and users of your gift cards?

Most of the time people buy them as gifts for family and friends. I buy them for my teenage nieces and nephews. I have a niece who is 13 years old. Giving her one of these cards is such a thrill. They have to sign the back of it and that makes it even more legitimate.

We also give these to our staff. It has solved the problem of what to do on employee anniversary dates and for contest prizes. We give staff a gift card instead of a basket of fruit that they don't want.


How many gift cards do you sell in a typical month?

Credit unions might sell 300 to 400 in December. It's not a gigantic moneymaker, but it's a service to members and it gets people in the door. And it's one less stop for members.

Provident Credit Union in Redwood City, Calif., sold hundreds of these during the holidays.

Fort Worth Community CU Provides Instant Recognition

Fort Worth Community Credit Union believes employees should be rewarded for outstanding performance. Therefore, it has established the HEROS (Honestly & Enthusiastically Representing Outstanding Service) program to recognize employees for their hard work and dedication to the credit union.

Employees give HEROS cards to their co-workers to instantly reward and acknowledge a good deed or honorable achievement. Employees use their own discretion in determining appropriate reasons for distributing the cards, but consider such things as:

  • Providing excellent member service;
  • Going beyond the call of duty;
  • Assisting a co-worker in need; and
  • Doing
Each employee receives 10 HEROS cards each year to give to other employees who provide outstanding service. They may give cards at any time and as often as desired until they're all handed out. The only stipulation is that one employee can't give another employee more than four HEROS cards without the approval of the vice president of human resources.

All HEROS cards include a detailed description of why the recipient received this recognition, to be reviewed by the human resources department. The human resources department has the right to refuse any HEROS cards that don't meet the established criteria.

Prizes range from a $5 Blockbuster gift card (for one HEROS card) to eight hours off with pay (28 cards).