KALAMAZOO, Mich.-Consumers CU here is rewarding members and non-members with cash prizes for their financial literacy knowledge.

The credit union's Cash Car is modeled after "Cash Cab," a popular cable TV program where unsuspecting taxi passengers can win money by correctly answering trivia questions while en route to their destination. Rather than a moving vehicle, Consumers' Cash Car is a seat on a trailer, and participants that answer questions correctly have the opportunity to draw from the "Cash Cooler" and can win $5 to $50.

The whole thing was put together by students at Western Michigan University, and the game was unveiled at last year's "Bronco Bash," a welcome event for WMU students (WMU athletic teams are called the Broncos). It proved so popular at Bronco Bash that the CU brought it back for summer 2012.

"It's been the most popular, fun event," said Lynne Jarman-Johnson, chief marketing officer at the $391-million, 46,000-member credit union. "We're taking it to festivals, as well as to every one of our office locations this summer. People are always calling us and asking 'Where is the Cash Car going to be?'"

Although Cash Car was intended to appeal to younger consumers, it has proven popular with all ages, and players do not have to be members at the credit union to participate. Johnson said that some people have joined the credit union after playing (and winning), but that the overarching goal was to promote the CU at a variety of events throughout the community.

Among the events where Consumers showcased the Cash Car this summer was the "Tour de Taylor," a charity bike ride in the Kalamazoo area to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Johnson noted that many Cash Car winners at that event donated their winnings back to the tour and Make-A-Wish.

Johnson would not share specific costs associated with the Cash Car, but noted that the amount of money Consumers brings to each event varies.


Staying Within Budget

"We only bring a minimum amount, and once it's gone, it's gone," she said, noting that office events require less cash than community festivals and similar events. "We have a budget that's very specific to it and we make sure we stay in budget."

If CCU suspects the funds will be gone quickly, it brings along other prizes so that attendees can keep playing Cash Car even after all the money has been awarded.

Cash Car will continue until sometime in October, with the Consumers CU planning to be present at some local races, as well as once again at WMU's Bronco Bash and other events. Once the weather turns cooler, Johnson said that if the credit union can find ways to do Cash Car indoors, it will.

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