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Living with credit

Credit unions aren’t picky, you are

Tyler Metzger

If you stick your hand up your nose, you might get a prize.

That’s what Your Federal Credit Union of Irving, Texas, is teaching kids with its youth club’s newsletter. The club’s mascot is “the nose,” a large, crudely-constructed face with two huge nostrils. It makes appearances at marketing events for the credit union.

The nose, a character used by Your Federal Credit Union.
“The nose,” a character used by Your Federal Credit Union of Irving, Texas.

“The nose” currently doesn’t have a name, but will get one soon via a naming contest in the newsletter. It is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen associated with a financial institution. I mean … for real. It’s a huge nose that kids stick their hands in to win a prize, and sometimes, according to the newsletter, “…you might get a handful of goo!”

But it’s an honest attempt to appeal toward kids in hopes that they will stick with the credit union when they are too old to hang with “The nose.” And the newsletter gave me more than just a laugh; it got me thinking about credit unions and how big of a task it must be to try to compete with the big dogs, especially in the world of advertising budgets.

You see, I’ve been with Bank of America all my life. They are a massive bank, which has never mattered to me because I’ve never had a problem. Call me a big-city guy. Whatever. But because I’ve been with ye olde BoA so long, I’d never thought about the little people. The folks who pick their brains and come up with something like “the nose.” The people who make crosswords puzzles and write the fake journal entries about U.S. bonds and finally, proudly, copy and paste some clip art into Microsoft Word and PDF it into a newsletter.

And it’s not that all credit unions are small, or that I’m trying to belittle them. Your Federal Credit Union has about 17,600 members, according to the National Credit Union Administration. And in the United States alone, 43.7 percent of the economically-active population uses them, according to a 2008 report from the World Council of Credit Unions. It’s just I was never exposed to credit unions.

I don’t know why. Maybe it was because my folks were stuck in their ways, so they dragged me over to BoA. Maybe it was because they wanted to stay with the same bank as them. Maybe they were being bribed. Maybe they were scared of “the nose’s” cousin, “the used Kleenex.” Whatever it was, I was never exposed to credit unions.

So for those who don’t know the things I know now, here’s some info on U.S. credit unions:

  1. They are owned and directed by their members.
  2. Each member gets to vote certain people to a board of directors. Those board memebers set policy and focus.
  3. To be a member of a credit union, you usually have to belong to a particular group, such as a teachers association, or work for a qualifying company, such as a newspaper.
  4. They are not-for-profit, but not nonprofit. This means they do not rely on donations; they instead use excess earnings to offer members lower fees and better services.
  5. They are state or federally chartered.
  6. There are about 7,900 credit unions in the U.S., according to the same 2008 report from the World Council of Credit Unions, and their membership is about 89 million people.

Basically credit unions are more community based than large banks. They attempt to appeal to the whole neighborhood, so it makes sense that “the nose” and the silly newsletter it’s put in might look a little … well, silly, compared to the paperwork you get from a huge institution such as BoA or whatever.

Just look at this BoA Web page on teaching kids about money compared to these kid-friendly newsletters from the Kern Federal Credit Union of Bakersfield, Calif., and the Los Angeles Firemen’s Credit Union. See what I’m saying about community? The newsletters from the credit unions look like they were made by someone from that town, and they more than likely convey a sense of community to the people who read them. The same thing can’t be said about BoA’s site.

But please, if you are going to design a newsletter, stay away from bodily fluids. Here, I even dug up this guide on finding a youth marketing agency for credit unions. Because on the reals though, I don’t care if the “goo” came from my community or New York City, I don’t want to have anything to do with it — even if it does come with a prize.

See related: The pros and cons of credit union credit cards

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