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4 Non-Traditional Rewards Program Ideas for Banks and Credit Unions

Justin Smorawske


Widespread membership in loyalty and rewards programs continues to peak. However, actual usage of these programs is bottoming out. If banks and credit unions want to definitively bolster their customer loyalty by way of a rewards program, they'll need to set themselves apart by being incredibly useful, innovative and must-have. After all, according to a study from Colloquy, the average American household is a member of 29 loyalty programs but only active in 12 of them.

Here are some non-traditional ideas for boosting your FI rewards program.


Community banks and credit unions often engage with a third-party provider when it comes to rewards programs. As such, the resulting rewards tend to be fairly disconnected from the city, region or area in which you do business. To remove some of these obstacles of lack of locality, consider partnering with businesses (i.e., restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, etc.) exclusive to the communities surrounding your branches. Since most banking customers or members expect a rewards program will follow the same cookie-cutter pattern as all others, this can set you apart.

Fundraising Goals

Consumers gravitate toward budgeting apps and other financial tools to help them plan ahead for major purchases, such as vacations, college expenses or new furniture or major appliances. Consumers also appreciate the ability to personify a savings goal—rather than simply saving for the sake of it. Pair these sentiments together and fashion your rewards program as cash-back with a twist—offer deposits into your customers' or members' goal-specific funds for desired actions, such as setting up direct deposit, paying on time, etc. Rather than offering phantom "travel points," this helps show your end consumer that you're invested in their personal goals. 

Charitable Giving

Rewards and loyalty programs for bank and credit union customers don't always have to be about getting something—giving can be a powerful tool, as well. Select nonprofits and charitable organizations that resonate with your customer or member base—and jive well with your FI's mission. Then connect desired actions with giving to said organizations. Publicize and update your consumers about progress and how it's affecting the beneficiaries. And if you have the wherewithal to personalize your efforts, go the Amazon Smile route, and offer your customers and members the chance to select a local nonprofit to which they'd like their "rewards dollars" to go.

Paying Bills

What's one of the most commonly pitched services your bank or credit union offers? Online bill pay is probably toward the top of that list. Capitalize on your customers' or members' usage of this tool or other budgeting mechanisms to offer rewards that will truly endear you to them for the long-term—assisting in their monthly bills. Say a consumer deposits a certain amount of money into his or her account a given billing cycle or uses his or her FI credit card that cycle five or six times—apply rewards points as cash back directly toward their monthly payees, such as utilities, loan payments or luxuries, like Hulu or Netflix subscriptions.

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