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SECU changes gas pump policy adds overdraft fee-free days
RALEIGH, N.C. (2/8/11)--State Employees' CU (SECU) has changed its credit policy at the gas pump and added Overdraft Fee Free Days to its checking account to help members curb overdrafts. "At 95% of today's automated gas pumps, members have a choice of using their debit card as a debit, in which they enter the PIN code, or as a credit," Leigh Brady, SECU senior vice president education services, told News Now. "It's the credit where we've had the issue." The Raleigh, N.C.-based credit union discovered a number of members are going into the negative on their checking accounts when they used their debit card for credit at the pump. When they use the credit function, the credit union deducted $1 their account until Visa posed the actual amount to the checking account, which can take a couple of days. Brady explained the problem: A member with $60 in his checking account pumps $30 worth of gas. The pump receipt registers it as a credit of $1 from the account--the deduction the credit union made from the member's account for gas transactions until Feb. 1. The member knows he's paid $30 but doesn't realize that entire amount isn't posted with the credit union balance yet by the card company. In the meantime, the member goes to the ATM the next day and sees he has $59 in his checking account, she said. Forgetting the balance doesn't reflect the gas cost, he says, "Oh I must have had more money that I thought." And he proceeds to spend it somewhere and put his account in the negative. SECU did its research and decided to change the $1 deduction to $26 to help members cover the cost of the gas purchase. The change was effective Feb. 1. "We analyzed data from our account transactions and found that 80% of members who pump gas using the debit as a credit card spend about $26 or more with every gas transaction. Now, instead of deducting $1, we deduct $26 until the transaction is posted by Visa. Then we restore it to the actual amount spent," Brady said. That means when the member goes to the ATM the next day, his account balance is $34, reflecting the average amount of a gas transaction, and he has a more accurate idea of his balance. The amount is adjusted when the actual gas purchase amount is posted. The new credit policy "mitigates the impact for our members," Brady said. Only 5% of automated gas pumps have the technology to post the exact amount for both debit and credit at the pump, she said. The credit union also introduced Friday its Overdraft Fee Free Days for traditional checking accounts. Every SECU checking account enrolled in the Overdraft Protection Program will automatically see the benefit of having overdraft transfer fees waived for two days each calendar year. "It's to help members with those 'oops!' moments," said Brady. With the program, the member has a separate account that is tapped when the member overdraws his checking account. Normally the credit union charges 50 cents for an overdrawn transaction. "We'll waive it for the first two days that it happens in a year," Brady said. The program follows SECU's NSF Fee Free Days, launched early last year to allow members to have $12 Non-Sufficient Funds fees waived on two days during the year, regardless of the number of items marked as NSF on either of the two days. SECU's Another Chance Program provides mobile alerts and an additional day for members to cover inadvertent overdrafts without a fee, return or embarrassment. And its Two-Way Text Messaging allows members to receive current balances and account history notifications via text message. In $2010, the combined overdraft enhancements helped save SECU members more than $5 million in potential NSF charges.


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