TAMPA, Fla. — GTE Financial has a new mobile application that lets members save cash, and with a few taps on their smart phones, apply that money to their credit union mortgage or auto loan.
Called Future Change, the app for Android and Apple users rounds up every debit purchase to the next dollar and places the money in a special savings account. With a swipe of a finger, that money can then be directed to pay down a loan's principal balance.
The app addresses a number of objectives, according to GTE.
"It's a debt reduction, savings and financial literacy tool all in one," said Chad Burney, chief information officer and senior vice president of virtual banking, who said that the $1.6 billion CU is a strong proponent of member financial literacy. "And we expect the program will also drive debit interchange."
The CU understands how members can benefit by knowing how much additional payments can equate to in interest savings down the road, which the app shows them.
"Future Change is a fun and easy way for members to get excited about paying off their loans earlier," Burney said.
Developed in-house, Future Change is coming out of beta testing and will be released in the Android and Apple app stores this month.
To get started using the app, members must have a GTE checking account and home and/or auto loan. A Future Change savings account is connected to the their debit card that is only available through the app.
Future Change also allows members to tap their phones to check any account balance, adding to banking convenience and reducing the number of calls to the CU's call center, Burney said.
"The Future Change app incorporates aspects of gamification, like progress bars toward loan payoff and badges, to make this process more appealing to members," he said.
The idea for the app came out of a brainstorming session during which employees talked about how most members don't understand how making extra payments can dramatically reduce what they pay over the life of a loan, Burney said.
The app focused on making that fact clear to members, as well as making it easy to make the payment.
"That is important," said Burney. "How many times do we think about doing something but stop because of the extra effort."
When members are ready to make a transfer from their Future Changes savings account to their loan, the app recaps the amount, allows members to calculate savings based on the transfer amount, and shows the savings, payments eliminated, as well as current principal and interest until payoff before and after the transfer.
Future Change will be available to the entire membership and for more than just auto and mortgage loans in the next release, Burney said.
"We will also allow the money to be applied to college savings," he said. "And, if members just want to use the round up account for general savings, they can do that now."
Future Change also lets members take a photo to create their own app icon image, which Burney expects will be shots of cars and homes.
The name for the app carries two meanings, he said.
"It means changing someone's financial future and also 'change' that's coming your way, like the change you used to throw into a big jar when you used a lot of cash," Mr. Burney said.
Change from a transaction quickly adds up, he said.
"I used to have three jars of change at my home. When I signed up for the app, in two and a half weeks I had $50 in my account," Burney said.
"At that pace I'd save about $800 to $1,200 a year," he said. "When you use that money to pay down a loan's principal, it adds up to even more savings."