This ad appeared in the March 25, 2012 edition of the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper in Lincoln, Nebraska. Unfortunately for the bank, they named their free checking account Smart Checking and merely describe it as free in the ad. You’ll note the bank pays interest on this free checking account. To earn interest each month, customers must meet certain criteria including using e-statements, doing online banking, using his or her Visa Check Card at least 12 times per month. The account remains free of a monthly service fee and minimum balance requirement even if the customer fails to meet these criteria. This type of interest-earning checking account is known in the industry as a Rewards Checking account which is a product available to banks from BancVue in Texas. At least this small community bank is spending marketing dollars promoting the fact that it offers a free checking account. Paying interest is one way to differentiate your bank’s free checking account from free accounts offered by competitors – even in a low rate environment.
FirstBank wraps a bus in a giant ad promoting free checking and tops it off with a 25-foot long propeller on top.
The ad reads, “Heli-Skiing, now as affordable as Free Checking.”
First Northern Bank, founded in 1910 in Dixon, California, continues offering Totally Free Checking to its customers in the surrounding counties which includes Sacramento. In addition to Totally Free Checking, the bank also offers 50+ Free Interest Checking (for customers age 50 and older) and Direct Deposit Free Interest Checking. These three checking accounts were originally part of the seven unique checking accounts comprising the “High Performance Checking Account Marketing Program” introduced in 1982 by a direct mail marketing agency in Lincoln, Nebraska. At the time, the direct deposit based account was introduced as VIP Interest Checking. Over the past three decades, most community banks and credit unions participating in the High Performance Checking Account Marketing Program have shortened the Totally Free Checking name to Free Checking. It’s always exciting to encounter a local community bank that continues offering Totally Free Checking, not to mention two additional accounts from the original list of seven. The ad shown below appeared in the April/May 2012 issue of the glossy Sactown magazine.
California’s largest credit union, Golden 1, continues promoting its free checking account. During March, 2012, a simple two-panel marketing flyer or buckslip is being distributed inside the branches in brochure holders located at the teller windows. While this is great news, the words “FREE CHECKING’’ are the smallest words on the front of the flyer as you can see below. And the words “Zero,” “Zip,” and “Zilch,” are not carried forward and explained on the back panel. This particular financial institution has, for years, had its own in-house creative agency which accounts for much of its mediocre creative like the piece shown here. It is very important that banks and credit unions offering free checking continue aggressively marketing the account through multiple marketing channels.