Community Partnerships Help CU With ATMs, Loans

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Hermantown FCU found a way to expand its surcharge-free ATM network without spending a dime.

The $55-million credit union established a unique joint marketing agreement with Curtis Oil, which owns 10 convenience stores in the area. Not only does Curtis Oil own the convenience stores-it also owns the ATMs that are already in those stores, and it just happens to be a member business client of HFCU's.

HFCU provided its BIN numbers to Curtis Oil's ATM driver so that all credit union members can use the convenience store's ATMs surcharge free. In exchange, HFCU will drive business to the stores by promoting the locations to its membership as a convenient, free ATM access.

"The CEO and I sat down at a table to figure out how we could expand surcharge-free ATM access to our members without running up the cost of buying machines, leasing the space, employing a security company to service the machines, etc.," said Doug Ralston, marketing and PR manager for the 15,000-member credit union. "We've really been trying to delve into the business services side of things, and we already had a close relationship with Curtis Oil, so we set up a meeting with the owners to see if there's a way for us to help them and for them to help us."

To jumpstart the promotion of the expanded ATM network, the convenience stores will be offering a free cup of coffee to members who come in to use the ATMs. And of course, HFCU is telling its members all about it.

The three-year agreement will be reviewed annually and is exclusive so that no other financial institutions can offer surcharge-free ATM access at the convenience stores.

Currently, there are seven convenience store locations members can use, but eventually all 10 will be in the deal, and Curtis Oil plans to open more stores in the future, as well.

The stores-Food-N-Fuel and Super America Gas and Convenience Stores-are strategically placed throughout Northern Minnesota and into Wisconsin.

That was key for HFCU, which in the last few years expanded its community charter that served only Hermantown CU to a charter that encompasses all of St. Louis County.

"We wanted to find ways to offer surcharge-free access to members in more than just the immediate area," Ralston explained. "This helps us branch out."

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