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Freedom Checking - St. Louis Community

Credit Union :St. Louis Community
Assets :$240,000,000
Address :3651 Forest Park | St Louis, MO 63108
Start Date :Summer 2007

Check Cashing Qualifications :

Those with a ChexSystems record, but with the following criteria:

Freedom Start-Up Checking
  • Any unpaid balances cannot be greater than $500
  • Cannot owe more than two depositories
  • There are less than 10 inquiries
  • No record of fraud
Freedom Checking
  • Any unpaid balances cannot be greater than $300
  • Cannot owe more than one depositories
  • There are less than 5 inquiries
  • No record of fraud

Rates, Fees, and Terms :

Freedom Start-Up Checking
  • $5 monthly fee
  • No ATM deposits
  • Longer holds may apply within Reg. CC guidelines
  • A service fee of $1 per returned item is charged to the account in addition to a $15 returned check fee
  • Will receive a debit card and checks
  • After 60 days, Freedom Checking may qualify for overdraft privilege for up to $200 if member has direct deposit and keeps account in good standing
  • After 12 months in good standing (less than 12 returned items), member can request an upgrade to the Freedom Checking product
Freedom Checking
  • No monthly fee
  • No ATM deposits
  • Longer holds may apply within Reg. CC guidelines
  • A service fee of $1 per returned item is charged to the account in addition to a $15 returned-check fee
  • Will receive a debit card and checks
  • After 60 days, Freedom Checking may qualify for overdraft privilege for up to $200 if member has direct deposit and keeps account in good standing
  • After 6 months in good standing (less than 12 returned items) and no new negative Qualifile activity, member can request an upgrade to one of the credit union’s mainstream line of checking products

Vendors/Systems Used :

  • No special technology required.

Target Market :

  • Those members who are denied traditional checking products due to credit or account management problems in the past
  • Those members who are looking for alternatives to paying expensive fees to check cashing outlets and/or for prepaid debit cards

Marketing Strategy :

  • Word-of-mouth is the most powerful source for new Freedom Checking accounts
  • The product is promoted at the credit union’s financial education seminars and at SEGs through the CU’s business development team
  • All marketing channels are used at various times of the year to increase awareness; e.g. newsletters, direct mail, emails, in-branch POS, social media, etc.
  • The Second Chance Checking product is marketed as a checking option on the CU’s website in the following manner:

Second Chance Checking: Have you had some credit or account management problems in the past that have prohibited you from opening an account at a bank or credit union? Well, St. Louis Community can help you get back into mainstream banking with our Freedom “Second Chance” Checking Account.

Freedom Checking allows you to access our entire product and service portfolio, while reducing the major expenses related to alternative financial services. Once approved, you must open both a savings and checking account at the Credit Union. You’ll receive a debit card, checks, and you can take advantage of Direct Deposit (if available through your employer). After 60 days, you may also qualify for Overdraft Privilege up to $200: if you have Direct Deposit and keep your account in good standing. And if your account remains in good standing for six months, you can request an upgrade to a Bronze, Silver or Gold checking account. With the help of Freedom Checking, you can increase your standard of living. To learn more or to apply for an account, visit the St. Louis Community branch nearest you.

A service fee of $1 per returned item will be charged to the account per month in addition to a $15 returned-check fee. Account holders have limited access to certain services, including: no ATM deposits, and no Freedom Loan. Longer check holds may apply within Reg. CC guidelines. In the event an ATM is “offline” and cannot communicate balances, member will not be able to withdraw funds. The Freedom Checking Account must be active and in good standing (less than 10 returned items) for six months in order to request an upgrade to a Bronze, Silver or Gold checking account.

Program Results/Statistics :

  • As of June 2013, over 7% (3,700) of the CU’s 51,189 members have a Freedom Checking Account
  • Of the CU’s 40,528 checking accounts, over 18% are Freedom Start-Up or Traditional Freedom Checking accounts

Member Benefits :

  • Allows those members with past checking blemishes to get back into mainstream banking
  • Saves members the cost of using expensive check cashing outlets or prepaid debit cards
  • Freedom checking members have access to the CU’s entire product and service portfolio

Additional Information :

“Our Freedom Checking and Freedom Loans allow us to say, ‘Yes, we can help you,’” says Mike O’Brien, SVP and chief marketing officer. “That’s very powerful when we are out talking with some of our SEG groups and offering financial education seminars. Many people who have been spurned by other financial institutions are skeptical that our credit union really has the desire to help them with financial products. But our Freedom products enable us to put people back into the mainstream. It’s a great way to build member loyalty.”

Whereas members can request an upgrade after 12 months in the Freedom Start-Up Checking program and six months in the Freedom Checking program, the credit union looks at requests on a case-by-case basis to see how the member has handled the checking account. Word-of-mouth works very well when it comes to spreading word about the credit union’s 2nd chance accounts. However, O’Brien states, “Our strongest marketing efforts are our grassroots work. Our business development team is very effective about telling our SEGs about the Freedom products.” The credit union serves a number of SEGs and business partners which have employees who are considered low to moderate income.

Freedom Checking allows you to access our entire product and service portfolio, while reducing the major expenses related to alternative financial services. Once approved, you must open both a savings and checking account at the credit union. You’ll receive a debit card, checks, and you can take advantage of direct deposit (if available through your employer). After 60 days, you may also qualify for overdraft privilege up to $200 – if you have direct deposit and keep your account in good standing. If your account remains in good standing for six months, you can request an upgrade to a Freedom Checking (for Freedom Start-Up Checking), Bronze, Silver or Gold Checking account.