Special High-Rate Deal Is Offered

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Sunmark FCU is offering potential members in its newly added field of membership a holiday premium.

Through a new online product called RateEdge.com, the $450-million credit union is enticing potential members to sign on to what is believed to be the highest rate in the nation for a regular savings (share) account-4.25%. There is no minimum balance or annual fee required.

The online accounts-paying as much as five times over the credit union's normal savings rates-are available for all members but are specifically targeted to residents of upstate New York's Montgomery and Schoharie counties, which Sunmark added to its four-county field of membership just a few months ago.

Susan Siegel, senior vice president of marketing at the credit union, said the special online savings product was devised to reach potential members who may be too distant from a branch and are comfortable with online banking. "We can't build branches as fast as we'd like to in these new areas," said Siegel. The online product enables Sunmark to serve these potential new members while keeping expenses down, she added. The product is only available online.

Launched in October, it is being advertised only in the two new counties on billboards and local print media. So far, RateEdge.com has attracted some new deposits but "it hasn't blown the doors off," said Siegel. "We're cautiously optimistic." The extraordinary high rate compares with rates of 0.5% to 0.85% Sunmark was paying last week on its regular share accounts, depending on the minimum balances in the account.

While Sunmark is believed to be the first credit union in the country to try the special online account, several banks, such as ING, have been offering similar specials for the past few years, Siegel pointed out.

Officials have not decided how long they will continue to pay the high rate but want to hold it as long as possible. "We're committed to keeping the rate high to encourage long-term savings," said Siegel.

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