UW Credit Union Adds Free Credit Scores to Online Banking Dashboard and Links to Credit Karma

image I’ve long been impressed with the work done by Eric Bangerter (Director of Internet Services) and the UW Credit Union in the online channel. Nearly every one of its new features gets starred in my blog reader. And since its early-2008 launch, I’ve cited Eric’s blog, UW SourceCode, as the best example of how to communicate to your power users and online banking fans (see blog feed within the online banking dashboard in the first screenshot).

But the latest innovation might be my favorite. The Madison, WI-based CU has integrated credit scores, powered by TransUnion, directly into the online banking interface (see first screenshot). This is exactly where it should be, so that users can keep tabs of their credit health, without needing to go through the tedious and oftentimes expensive process of authenticating yourself at a third-party site.

image Even if that’s all they did, I’d give them an A+. But there’s more. UW CU has become the first financial institution to offer a private-branded version of Credit Karma’s credit report portal. The credit union pays a license fee to Credit Karma in order to offer the private-branded, ad-free version (see second screenshot). Sears also offers a similar service for its store card (see previous post).

UW CU members (120,000 active online bankers, see note 2) appear receptive to the info. In the first few days, more than 5,000 had clicked on the link, with more than 2,800 completing the registration process. That is a huge win for the members, the credit union, and Credit Karma.

Bottomline: Most of the time (98%/99%), end-users need see their credit score only for reassurance that nothing horrible has happened to their credit file. But the problem with posting ONLY the credit score is that those 1% to 2% who want more info often need it fast. And if you don’t offer a deeper dive complete with explanations of what’s going on, you are going to end up with confused and/or irate customers and a bunch of phone calls.

So, there needs to be a mechanism available for drilling down into the full report. And the Credit Karma portal is a relatively low-cost way to do that. Alternatively, you can upsell the full credit report for a fee in the $5 to $10 range or sell an annual subscription for unlimited access (see note 1).  

UW Credit Union online banking homepage showing credit score and Credit Karma linkage (16 Sep 2010)

UW Credit Union online banking homepage homepage showing credit score and Credit Karma linkage (16 Sep 2010)

UW Credit Union co-branded credit portal powered by Credit Karma

UW Credit Union co-branded credit portal powered by Credit Karma

1. For more information, see our Online Banking Report: Credit Monitoring Services (published in 2007).
2. UW CU has 150,000 members in total; 120,000, or 80%, have used online banking in the past 90 days; 80,000 (53%) used it in the past 30 days.

Money Link from the University of Wisconsin Credit Union Makes Electronic Transfers Simple (like they should be)

imageFinancial institutions vary considerably in how easy they make it to move money in and out of bank accounts.

On the one extreme is U.S. Bank, which still requires a retail customers to visit a branch to initiate an electronic payment (note 1). Plus, if you come in after the wire transfer deadline, 2 PM I believe, you can set it up to go out the next day, but you still have to call back and reconfirm before 2 PM the following day. When asked why they needed a phone call after I’ve already appeared in person, shown my ID, and signed multiple documents authorizing the transfer, they responded in all seriousness, “to make sure you are still alive.”

image Then there’s University of Wisconsin Credit Union, who not only assumes its members are alive, but also wants to keep them satisfied.

The credit union’s novel Money Link service allows anyone to send money to a UW CU member via an email-enabled system similar to PayPal but free of any fees and branded by the CU. The service can also be accessed via UW CU’s mobile banking. 

Transfers from outsiders take 3-4 days for the ACH items to clear. But member-to-member transfers occur in real time. It’s a great way for students to get money from mom and dad in time to thwart that Monday morning overdraft.

image The CU also supports full inter-institutional account-to-account transfers online. There is no cost to move money into UW CU, but there is a $2 fee for outgoing transfers.

Members who can’t wait for the 3 to 4 days for an ACH to clear, can elect the the Express Service that offers one-day turnaround for $10. The Express service has a $2,000 limit where the Standard Service can be used up to $10,000 (see inset).

Bottom line: This is the type of transfer service most consumers expect from their bank or credit union. It’s amazing that it’s still not supported at many financial institutions, including some of the majors.

1. Referring to wire transfers here initiated in the Seattle area. There could be other procedures in other areas of the bank’s footprint. Also, customers can CheckFree-powered online bill pay to pay any U.S. resident or business within 5 days. 

Blog Sighting: UW Credit Union’s SourceCode

image It's been a while since we found a new financial institution blog worth writing about. The last two were The Diff, a brilliant recruiting-focused effort from Quicken Loans (here) and Carolina Postal Credit Union's i love my hoopty (here), an interesting idea that lacked follow through, a common problem with blogging. 

While it only has three entries, I can already tell UW Credit Union's SourceCode is a winner. First, the man behind it, Eric Bangerter (see note 1) has a track record of bringing new innovations to market at a rapid pace. Madison, WI-based UWCU is on the short list of places I go back to time and time again to look for innovative examples of web-based delivery. 

Second, the blog's stated purpose, "the official blog for Web Branch and UW Credit Union's internet offerings," demonstrates that the CU is not just jumping on the blogging bandwagon. They are strategically using this communication tool to reach the customers most likely to appreciate it, power users of its online banking service.

Finally, it just plain looks good. And not in a fluffy way. It has takes a serious, "I need to pay attention to this," approach that should resonate with its members, many who are highly educated or in the process of getting that way.  

The first two weeks
The first entry, posted Feb. 18, provides a very important, but often overlooked, summary of the author's background so readers know the writing comes from a true insider and not just a biz school intern (note 2).  The next two entries discuss a new online banking feature, QuickView, a nice addition that delivers a popup view of the last five transactions when mousing over an account title.

The blog entries so far are very concise and well written. The entries all have a graphic or picture to break up the text and/or illustrate the point. Finally, SourceCode has a good look and feel with all the expected features: RSS/email signup, links to the main site, an About Us section including an email address, and article tags to navigate to various topics. The only thing missing is a search feature. 

Grade: A

UW Credit Union blog


1. Eric is a long-time subscriber to Online Banking Report (thanks!). 

2. There is nothing wrong with using biz school interns to blog, as long as the right audience is targeted, such as other college students. Or if they have a good editor to make sure the tone and content is superb.

3. For more info, see our report on blogging, OBR #135/136.