GERMANTOWN, Md. (1/3/12)--When it expanded its membership in 2011 to include more local employee groups, Montgomery County Employees FCU identified credit cards as the best opportunity for membership growth, according to James Norris, the credit union's CEO.
In a survey of its membership, the $90 million-asset credit union, of Germantown, Md., found that many members held cards with larger issuers.
"Credit cards are closely tied to member relationships," Norris said. "If you get the credit card relationship, you are more likely garner more accounts."
To spur growth, Montgomery County Employees FCU ran a 0%, 12-month introductory rate on balance transfers. The credit union used Georgetown Cupcakes, a popular in the Washington D.C-area sweets shop with its own TV show, to promote the initiative.
The credit union handed out cupcakes at the Montgomery County government cafeteria, and the county sent out e-mails to its 9,000 employees promoting the event. A promotional flyer included a cupcake with a "0" candle.
"Around here if you say Georgetown Cupcakes, you are going to get a lot of attention," Norris said.
The attention helped the credit union increase its credit card portfolio 53% from June 2011 to June 2012 and 19% from June 2010 to June 2011. That ranked it seventh nationally in percentage of growth according to Callahan's Research.
The credit card growth also helped the credit union grow in other areas, said Norris. The credit unions increased its mortgage portfolio 119% from 2011 to 2012, ranking 20th nationally in percentage of growth, the research found.
The credit union also increased its overall membership roughly 3% from 2011 to 2012, which was more than it had projected.
The credit union has plans to add a rewards component to its credit cards program.
"Looking at the survey, our members have rewards with other institutions, so it's very important for us to get a rewards program out there," Norris said.
The program will include travel, cash back and merchandise," Norris said
"We want to make it valuable for our members and allow us to compete with the larger issuers," he added.