Back when my kids were able to save—both are in college now, so that’s not happening—ING Direct and others offered interest rates that actually created an incentive to save. My oldest even enjoyed 5% rates for a while, quite helpful in showing how the “free” $5 to $10 per month he earned at the bank grew his total over time.
But today’s middle-schoolers and younger teens have come of age in an absurdly low interest-rate environment (see note 1), with little chance to experience the joy of compound interest. SmartyPig (inset, note 2) and others have created savings bonuses centered around merchant gift cards. That’s a clever way to add value, but it can also send a mixed message, “Hey Junior, save $250 and you’ll get an extra $5 if you spend the whole thing at Best Buy.” For parents who’d like their kids to hold onto that cash (at least until college), few options exist, other than bribing your kids with parent-funded bonuses.
But a few financial institutions have addressed the forlorn kiddos and their disappointed parents by dramatically boosting the rates paid on the first few hundred of a balance. For example, in the greater Seattle area, BECU pays 6.17% on the first $500 deposited in its Early Saver account (see screenshot below). Granted, the rate reverts to pretty much zero (0.1%) after that, but kids at least get enough interest every month ($2.50/mo on $500 balance) to make it feel like it’s worth holding the money at the credit union (note 3).
Bottom line: Your customers’ children are your future. It’s worth investing in services to keep them at your FI for the next decade or six. If the $30 annual subsidy is beyond your budget, enable parents to pay for the rate bonus. Let parents “boost” the interest paid on their child’s account as much as they want. To provide an extra incentive, you could match parental contributions up to a certain point (e.g., $10/year).
1: For example, Bank of America currently offers 1 basis point interest on a child’s account, which means your child’s $1,500 average balance earns 1 cent per month!
2. Social Money, owner of SmartyPig, was acquired by Q2 Holdings last month (Dec 2015).
3. BECU offers a similar boost for the first $500 banked by 18+ year-old members as well, but the rate is only 4%.
4. Off topic: BECU has done a great job optimizing its homepage for responsive design. Open it in your browser and then shrink the window and watch how it resets. Very nice!