Christmas Bonus! ATM to Spew $50s Instead of $20s

This holiday season, Industrial Credit Union in Bellingham, WA is going to randomly swap 100 $20 bills in one of its ATMs with $50 bills. The promo starts December 1.

According to Matt Vance, the credit union’s marketing chief, the credit union is sending a DM piece about the promo to 5,100 households within a 2-mile radius of its Barkley branch.

The outside of the mailer has no copy, but looks like a Christmas card that could contain something like a gift card.

The mailer unfolds like a Christmas gift.

The credit union isn’t doing the promo at all of its ATMs, just the one. Industrial Credit Union opened its Barkley branch only a few months ago and is looking to boost traffic and awareness.

This will probably do it. In this economy, any free extra cash — especially during the holidays – is sure to generate warm-fuzzies for the credit union’s brand.

The best part about this promo is that it taps people’s gambling nerve center. People are going to walk up to the ATM thinking, “Come on, big money! Big Money!”

Key Question: If you got a $50 bill out of an ATM when you were expecting a $20 bill, how many people do you think you would tell about it?

The credit union is going to stock the ATM with the $50’s the day the mailer hits, and expects that they’ll burn through their allotted budget of $50 bills in about three weeks. We’ll see. It may take less than three weeks.

You can also get pictures with Santa at the branch on December 13th.

Bottom Line: Giving away free money is a sure-fire formula for free PR and word-of-mouth marketing. You get a big marketing bang for the bucks. In this case, all it takes is a postcard and a stack of $50 bills. In this case, the total cost is $3,000 (plus costs for the mailing), since people are already withdrawing $20 from their account and getting a $30 bonus.

Note: You don’t have to do this promo just at Christmas.

Jeffry PilcherDon't miss THE FINANCIAL BRAND FORUM — April 15-17, 2019 in Las Vegas. Join 2,000+ of the best and brightest in banking at the world’s most elite conference on marketing, CX, data analytics and digital transformation for the financial industry. Banks and credit unions that register now SAVE $870+ and get a free upgrade to a GOLD PASS, and PAY NOTHING until next year! REGISTER NOW!

This article was originally published on November 28, 2008. All content © 2018 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.


  1. Tim McAlpine says:

    Very cool. Great coverage, Jeffry. Great idea and creative, Matt!

  2. Thanks Jeff for the write up and thanks Tim for the positive comments. Now let’s just hope it does what it’s supposed to do and drive traffic to the branch. Jeff, I’ll make sure to let you know how long it takes to go through the 100 winning $50’s.

  3. My little sister was born in Richland, Washington…am I eligible for membership? 🙂

    Love this promo – can’t wait to hear its results!

  4. What a fantastic idea!

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