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Credit Unions Lure New Customers With Free Gas

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Credit unions like Money One in College Park are trying to make customers more aware of their lower fees.
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Credit unions like Money One in College Park are trying to make customers more aware of their lower fees.

A local credit union in Maryland is trying to woo customers with free gas, but it's unclear whether the giveaway will be enough to lure customers away from larger banks.

Cars were lined up here more than two miles down the road to get $20 worth of free gas, and when drivers finally got to the pump, they were ecstatic.

"Girl, yes!" said one delighted customer. "I'm so excited because I really needed it."

A consortium of local credit unions from across the country hosted giveaways this morning to promote their free checking and ATM services. This comes as a new nationwide survey of major banks from MoneyRates finds that monthly checking account fees have increased to $12 on average — up 80 cents since last year.

Money One Credit Union, which has two branches in the area, hosted a giveaway in College Park.

"As you could see it was our staff that was here today pumping gas," says Debbie Connors, who heads up Money One. "I'm the CEO, and members call me all the time. They can always reach me."

But even with that sense of community, Gerald Hanweck, Professor of Finance at George Mason University says it may not be enough to woo a large number of customers, as small financial institutions can be limiting.

"The cost of your checking account is probably cheaper at a credit union, but at the same time, they have to be able to offer all of those ATM services," says Hanweck.

Credit unions are responding by partnering with online banks to expand their services.

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