Given that Vermont prohibits billboards and bans food scraps from landfills, it's fitting that a small community bank there is pushing the idea of shopping locally.

Brattleboro Savings & Loan Association, a $180 million-asset mutual thrift in southern Vermont, has developed a checking promotion that enters the names of qualifying customers into a drawing to win gift certificates for local stores. Higher rates on interest-bearing checking accounts are another reward.

Customers must meet three criteria to get chances at gift cards: use their debit card at least 20 times per four-week period; sign up for electronic statements; and conduct at least one direct-deposit or automatic-debit transaction.

Highlighting banks' local ties is considered one important way they can connect with millennials, a group known to have different preferences for financial products than earlier generations. Some financial technology companies are also experimenting with geolocation services, which let banks send consumers discounts and offers from local merchants as they're walking or driving by.

Brattleboro wanted to get people to use their debit cards more frequently, and at the same time promote local businesses that are account holders, Chief Executive Dan Yates said.

"We were looking for ways to make this about more than just offering an account with a higher rate, and we bandied about different ideas," Yates said. "The thought here is to try and create what we're coining as a 'virtuous circle.'"

The participating merchants have names that you might expect from a local business in Vermont. For example, one of the winners was given a gift certificate to Brattleboro Food Co-op, a solar-powered health food store.

Others include Vermont Country Deli, an employee-owned purveyor of gift baskets located in a century-old building; Zephyr Designs, a custom-framing and art-supplies store; and the Marina, a restaurant located on a peninsula where the Connecticut River and West River meet.

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