Reimagining Overdraft Fees in Minnesota Saves $5 Million in Six Months for Affinity Plus Members
ST. PAUL, MINN. – (April 3, 2023) – Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union (Affinity Plus) reported today its decision last summer to eliminate non-sufficient fund fees (NSF) and reduce overdraft fees has saved members nearly $5 million in its first six months—with low-moderate income individuals benefitting most. The credit union is the first financial institution in Minnesota to modernize fees for everyone, and as of July 2022, stopped charging members for returned items, cut courtesy payment fees by more than half and created a “no-fee buffer zone” for accounts where the negative balance is less than $100.
“It’s a bold approach, but these early results show that cutting non-sufficient funds fees and reducing overdraft fees is the right thing to do: it’s good for our members and it’s good for business,” said Dave Larson, Affinity Plus CEO. “We believe we’re the only credit union in Minnesota so far to take this approach designed around the most vulnerable members, and it’s our hope that sharing our success spurs others to follow suit.”
Six-month results indicate:
- Fifty percent of savings from the elimination of NSF fees went to the most vulnerable members; those with credit scores below 620 and within low or low-middle income groups.
- The $100 allowance was used by members across all demographics; however, those who benefitted most were lower income, lower credit tier, minority and younger members.
- Generationally, millennials continue to be the largest group receiving courtesy pay fees; while millennials are receiving fees at a higher rate than other age groups, Affinity Plus saw a decline from approximately 14% to 9% of millennials paying a courtesy pay fee because of the $100 allowance.
- Almost 30,000 members were positively impacted as a result of the changes, saving $4.9 million from June 30 – December 31, 2022, with some members benefiting multiple times – as much as 14 times.
The move to cut fees is also fueling explosive growth for Affinity Plus, which surpassed a milestone of 250,000 members in March and is now one of the fastest-growing financial institutions in Minnesota.
“Removing incremental fees goes a long way to improve the daily lives of our members and build a stronger financial foundation,” said Larson. “Affinity Plus’s call center professionals are now able to engage in more meaningful dialogue with members to lend support and advice to improve their financial health versus transactional calls focused on fees and processing.”
According to the Center for Responsible Lending, banks charge Americans approximately $15 billion in overdraft fees each year, predominantly impacting lower-income families and individuals. Many financial institutions continue to return or charge fees on accounts with a negative balance and can issue multiple charges a day, putting vulnerable individuals in an even tougher spot with more debt and potential damage to their credit report.
The decision to cut fees is part of Affinity Plus’s ongoing mission to remove barriers to high-quality financial services and serve underserved communities. Last June, Affinity Plus introduced Early Pay to give members access to their regular paychecks up to two days early, improving cash flow and creating better money management. In 2021, the not-for-profit, member-owned cooperative also launched the nation’s first all-digital banking cooperative, Dora Financial, which is designed to serve low-to-moderate-income individuals who are underserved by the traditional banking industry. Its latest branch openings, in Mahnomen and the Midway area of St. Paul, reflect Affinity Plus’s commitment to provide convenient access to high-quality financial services where there is the greatest need.