Field of membership is a barrier to consumers frictionlessly joining credit unions. JoinCU is a modern solution to prequalify or refer eligible consumers.

Sam Brownell


Sep 10



View all posts by 

Sam Brownell

Articles Posted by

Sam Brownell

A squiggly pink arrow pointing downward and to the right.

By Sam Brownell, Founder, CUCollaborate

Time for Action for CUs

Banks and fintech present increasing competition in the financial services marketplace, yet credit unions have operated in essentially the same manner since the early 1900s. Credit unions’ 10% market share demonstrates their failure to gain traction with American consumers.

Field of membership restrictions are tripping them, and credit unions, up. According to CUNA’s research, 40% of consumers believe they cannot join a single credit union. Why? The credit union community has not created a strong enough digital call to action.

Credit unions must take steps to protect their existing market share and to expand their reach to more Americans. Consumers want to join credit unions and every single consumer is eligible to join multiple credit unions. The average consumer can join a minimum of eight credit unions for free (and more than 100 if they are willing to pay $25 to join an association). This shouldn’t be difficult. The problem is that credit unions’ fields of membership create confusion in an era when frictionless is the mindset. Too many other options exist that can be researched and even purchased with the click of a mouse.

JoinCU is a member eligibility tool that takes the friction out of member acquisition. Click here to learn more!

The credit union difference resonates with consumers. CUNA Awareness Initiative research demonstrated very strong positive responses from consumers on basic credit union characteristics:

  • 87% responded favorably to the idea that credit unions return earnings to their members.
  • 83% provided a favorable response to the face their boards are elected members
  • 82% responded that credit unions’ not-for-profit status was favorable.

FOMs are the chief culprit. Two major problems stem from credit unions’ fields of membership, which will only worsen if credit unions and their business partners do not take action.

  1. Until now it has been nearly impossible to determine all of the credit unions a consumer is eligible to join. As a result, consumers usually don’t even find credit union offers when they shop for financial products online using sites like LendingTree, Credit Karma,, and NerdWallet. Those sites cannot determine consumers’ eligibility, so they don’t bother to include credit unions. Millions of consumers who are using these sites—and millions more—are missing out on great money-saving opportunities from their credit unions, and your credit union is missing out on solid, tech-savvy members!
  2. A mere 10% successfully obtain membership from credit unions through online applications, reinforcing the notion that credit unions not easy to use. In addition, 30% of the consumers on average who do complete applications are denied membership based on their credit. The result: 89% of consumers who start online applications with credit unions fail to get the product they wanted.

You may think, my credit union has an optimized website with a powerful lead generation engine and national field of membership, so it’s not my problem. But it is. It means that the vast majority of consumers’ first attempts to obtain a credit union’s assistance are unsuccessful, reinforcing the idea that credit unions in general are inaccessible and making it that much harder to convince consumers to consider a credit union in the future.

To address the problem, individual credit unions and the industry as a whole need to adopt technology that:

  • Uses data consumers enter when searching and applying for financial products to prequalify or determine eligibility.
  • Refers ineligible consumers and denials between credit unions to ensure consumers receive the product they are want.
  • Structures the application workflow and presentation layer to reduce confusion and online abandonment.
  • Educates consumers on the credit union difference with a conversational narrative embedded into online application workflows.

Addressing the problems created by fields of membership in this manner benefits both consumers and credit unions. It demands a strong digital call to action for consumers. CUCollaborate has built such a tool: JoinCU, which I will be demo’ing at FinovateSpring2018. It allows a consumer to determine their eligibility, and if they don’t fit within that credit union’s field of membership it recommends ones they do. As a bonus, the referring credit union receives a finders’ fee for each member. A definite win-win for the collaborative credit union community.

JoinCU helps consumers identify credit unions they are eligible to join more easily, streamlines the online application process and boosts credit unions’ marketing return on investment. Most importantly, it helps eradicate the myth that credit union eligibility is limited and reveals that everyone can and should join a credit union. To learn more, contact me at

New Member Acquisition

No items found.