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Topline Federal Credit Union has a unique partnership with CarSoup.com that allows it to solicit auto loans to qualifying buyers using the online service.

Under the agreement, individuals making private party purchases on CarSoup in the Minneapolis/St. Paul market will have the option of obtaining low interest financing through TopLine.

"It's been a challenge for us-as with most credit unions-to secure auto loans,'' said Katie Pitman, VP of Marketing for TopLine. "While the indirect program that we started two years ago has really begun to pick up speed, we were looking for opportunities to enhance it.''

She said when credit union officials approached CarSoup they learned that the online vehicle seller had no relationships with other financial institutions and, in fact, had never been approached by any. TopLine solicits its auto loan services via three individual pop-up banners and skyscraper ads that rotate.

In addition, Pitman said, CarSoup is including a direct link to TopLine in all private party purchase-request e-mails it generates. Links that lead buyers to an online application for instant approval are also on CarSoup's private party vehicle details page.

"We saw the CarSoup exclusive sponsorship as a unique opportunity to expose a large number of finance seekers to TopLine and its most competitive rates,'' said Harry Carter, president and CEO of TopLine. "With this relationship, individuals can easily apply for the financing they need and receive a loan decision in just minutes directly through CarSoup.''

Patty Mitchell, VP of Sales and Marketing for CarSoup, said the partnership enhances its business in the CU's service area.

"When people purchase cars at a dealership, they are provided with financing options right on site,'' she said. "When someone wants to buy from a private party, they sometimes are uncertain about how to finance their purchase.''

In its first six months with CarSoup, TopLine has received 5.4-million impressions with a click-through rate of .12%. Industry average is .02%, Pitman said. Among the reasons, she said, is that TopLine prides itself on being the low-rate leader, receiving the top spot in the Star-Tribune newspaper's Best Consumer Rate listing for two years.

She said the business generated has paid for the partnership four-fold. "I'm not comfortable sharing the dollar investment in the partnership,'' she said. "I can say that the monthly investment is comparable with a direct mail postcard targeting about 7,000 households.''

CarSoup at www.carsoup.com is a leading web site for buying and selling vehicles. It was established in 1998 and currently operates in 14 states. It is ranked among the top e-commerce companies in Minnesota.

TopLine has $220 million in assets. It recently received a community charter and changed its name from First Tel.

Pitman said the credit union will continue to solicit members and potential members through indirect auto loans, direct mail campaigns and "supermarket targeting'' by life stages.

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