CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's a David vs. Goliath scenario: small financial institutions with limited marketing budgets trying to get their products known while giant institutions use big budgets to promote their national brands.
Now some of the little guys are joining forces to market products using the Kasasa brand name.
One is Pioneer West Virginia Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Charleston, which began offering a Kasasa-branded checking and savings account on Jan. 28.
Shannon Bradley, Pioneer's vice president of member services, said members who sign up for Pioneer's free Kasasa checking and savings accounts and meet three key criteria receive a 3 percent annual yield on a checking account balance of up to $5,000, 0.25 percent on checking balances above $5,000, plus refunds on automated teller machine fees nationwide.
The criteria: Use the Pioneer debit card for at least 12 point-of-sale transactions a month; log onto online banking at least once a month; and sign up for e-statements.
"These behaviors save us money," Bradley said. "We reward them for that."
Members who sign up but don't meet the criteria in any given month receive a 0.05 percent dividend on their checking and savings balances and qualify the next month to earn the higher rate.
"You can have personalized service and get something back," Bradley said. "And that's what we're about."
Pioneer has about 13,000 members. "At least 200 members have already converted (to the Kasasa-branded accounts) because they understand it's such a wonderful product," Bradley said.
"This is a Pioneer product," she emphasized. "We designed it. We decide what behaviors we'll reward. We have control over that rate." The credit union's members still do business directly with Pioneer, and their accounts are still insured by the National Credit Union Administration.
BancVue is the company behind Kasasa. Pioneer pays BancVue a fee to participate in the Kasasa brand. In return, Pioneer receives marketing materials, including a link on Kasasa's website.
A CNN Money story published last year quoted Gabe Krajicek, the chief executive officer of BancVue, as saying that by joining forces, seven banks in Ohio were able to make Kasasa the official sponsor of the Cleveland Cavaliers professional basketball team — "something one of the seven community banks would never have had the resources to do on its own."
About 150 community banks and credit unions in 39 states are now offering Kasasa-brand products, said spokeswoman Jacquelyn Daane. There are participating institutions in all of the states surrounding West Virginia. But Pioneer is currently the only participating financial institution in the Mountain State.