In a Nutshell: Financial Plus Credit Union has served members in Des Moines, Iowa, for more than 90 years, and it continues to keep pace with modern times. The credit union upgraded its website to enable easier access to accounts at a time when in-branch banking has become less popular. Alongside digital banking, Financial Plus Credit Union also provides a financial literacy app to empower communities with knowledge and resources to better manage their money. The credit union also engages in philanthropic and volunteer work, ensuring that members and Des Moines area residents thrive.
Many businesses and financial institutions had to abruptly shut down early on during the COVID-19 pandemic, often leaving people in challenging situations. With storefronts shuttered, many people lacked access to the financial services they needed to keep themselves stable during the crisis.
However, that wasn’t the case for members of Financial Plus Credit Union. During the hardships incurred by emergency conditions, the credit union focused on digital outreach and education alongside community service through charitable giving and volunteerism.
Through its efforts, Financial Plus Credit Union helped members and communities stay safe and stable during the crisis without incurring unnecessary debt. The aim was to help them “get off on the right foot in 2021,” according to Megan Stelter, Marketing Manager at Financial Plus Credit Union.
Based in Des Moines, Iowa, the credit union serves communities with four locations — West Des Moines, Euclid Avenue, Fleur Drive, and Ingersoll. It manages over $200 million in assets for more than 14,000 members and has over 90 years of experience helping people manage money and achieve their financial goals.
“Some of our senior leadership team have worked for the credit union for over 25 years,” said Stelter. “We know members by name, and we know their stories. We pride ourselves on listening to not only their financial situations but also getting to know details about their lives and helping them if they encounter financial hardship.”
Online Access Keeps Members Connected to their Money
Just as the COVID-19 pandemic set in, Financial Plus Credit Union launched its redesigned website. The new, robust platform ensures members maintain access to their money and accounts even if they can’t visit a physical location. Instead, they can safely contact the credit union through text message and via live webchat.
“That was perfect timing because it’s just another way members can get a hold of us if they can’t come into a branch,” Stelter said. “They can text message any branch line, and it will come through to a platform where somebody can get back to them over the internet.”
Of course, Financial Plus Credit Union also wanted to ensure everyone had access to remote services, even if they weren’t part of the tech-savvy generation. Employees helped many members via phone, walking them through the new digital process step by step.
“We’ve been helping members by text, webchat, and phone to make sure they have access to us outside of the drive-through or coming into the branch,” Stelter said.
Although a steep learning curve was expected, the response was more positive than anticipated. Some people did encounter issues with the new layout, but the staff helped them get acclimated in short order.
“It’s a different look and feel, so, of course, questions are expected,” Stelter said. “But we got far less than what we thought, so that’s a good thing. It tells us the site is easy to navigate, which was the goal.”
Financial Literacy App Offers Rewards for Self-Education
Financial Plus Credit Union’s new educational app is another way the credit union leverages digital technology to benefit its members. Through the redesigned website, members have direct control over their accounts. They also have access to instructional resources on how to best manage money through the app.
“We had been looking into a financial literacy tool for a while. Some of them were geared more toward college-age students,” Stelter said. “We wanted to focus more on younger students, giving them financial literacy early, before college, because that is when they start to make their financial decisions.”
Financial Plus Credit Union partnered with Zogo to bring the app to life and make it available to anyone living in the credit union’s service ZIP codes. It helps users learn about different financial literacy topics through informative quizzes, and they can earn prizes, including gift cards, for completing modules.
Rewarding users with funds for learning how to better manage their money helps Financial Plus Credit Union fight consumer debt on multiple fronts.
“We’re promoting this to our members, and we want to get into the schools and use it to educate students on financial literacy,” Stelter said. “We’re hoping, with it being an app and the ability to win prizes, that these students will find it a beneficial and fun way to learn.”
Philanthropic Work Supports Causes with Donations
In addition to serving members, Financial Plus Credit Union also makes it a point to give back to its communities. It aims to ensure local communities have access to necessities and fosters more holistic financial stability and independence.
One way the credit union accomplishes that is with an annual cold-weather clothing drive through which it collects coats, mittens, and hats for Des Moines public schools. This year alone, it donated 57 coats, 24 hats and 30 pairs of gloves to children in need.
Additionally, this year iIts annual school supply donation drive for Des Moines Public Schools provided more than 10,000 items to schools in need. That will help over 3,000 elementary school children and teachers at six area schools this school year. The donation was pandemic-specific and included “wobble chairs” for young elementary students in order to help them space out appropriately during the era of COVID-19. Other supplies donated included hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizers and cleaning supplies, as well as a wide variety of typical school supplies needed most by lower-income children in the community.
The credit also union supports local public schools through fundraising efforts, including donations to PTOs and funding for annual events. Just as they do with individual consumers, those efforts help public institutions avoid taking on debt to access necessary goods and services.
Financial Plus Credit Union participates in other charitable giving outside of its annual drives and events. In 2020, it provided lunch for all floors and nurses at a local children’s hospital as a way to thank them for their hard work during such a challenging time. The credit union aims to take care of everyday needs to empower community members to focus on work and education, and improve their financial situations without taking on unnecessary debt.
Financial Plus Credit Union: Serving Members Nationwide
Financial Plus Credit Union serves the Des Moines area, but its efforts to help members span the country. That’s why it launched an expanded ATM network that encompasses more than 30,000 machines across the United States. That is good news as the economy continues to recover and people embrace mobility and resume travel for business and pleasure.
“We’re the first credit union in Iowa to work with CO-OP for their surcharge-free ATM networks,” Stelter said. “That’s over 30,000 ATMs nationwide that our members now have access to on top of our SHAZAM ATM network.”
In addition to availability across the country, access to these ATMs is also free. So no matter where they may roam, or for whatever reason, members can get cash when they need it without overspending on withdrawal fees.
That underscores Financial Plus Credit Union’s commitment to serving members no matter their physical location or financial situation. Through its online services, financial education, and philanthropic efforts, the credit union provides people with the support and information they need to lead healthier, more stable financial lives free from worry and debt.