Credit union member wins $5,000 in award for savers

Staff writerApril 24, 2014 

Even if they lose, they win.

And Anne Mickatavage of Rainier won $5,000 in the “Save to Win” program sponsored by her credit union, TwinStar.

The company mascot, Dollar Dog, was at the Yelm TwinStar branch on Tuesday as company officials presented Mickatavage with a ceremonial check. 

When Mickatavage heard the news of her victory, she said, “I just screamed and yelled.”

“We want to reward people for saving their own money,” said TwinStar CEO Jeff Kennedy.

“It’s a valuable program,” he said. “It encourages people to save.”

The program goes like this: Depositors receive an entry into the contest every time they make a $25 deposit to a special Certificate of Deposit savings account. A monthly drawing selects winners of small cash prizes, and the annual drawing selects the winners who receive $5,000.

The program is meant to encourage savings among non-savers, and participants so far seem to meet the target demographics.

According to Lynn Heider, spokeswoman for the Northwest Credit Union Association, most of the participants were not regular savers before joining the program. Sixty-two percent had assets of less the $5,000. Eighty-three percent admitted to having “little or no savings” and 80 percent had over $10,000 in debt.

Credit unions in only three other states – Michigan, Nebraska and 

North Carolina – offer Save to Win. The Washington program was authorized by state gambling regulators, and the State Department of Financial Institutions testified in favor of the program before the Legislature.

“I think anything that encourages people to save is good,” said Linda Jekel, the department’s director of credit unions.

The special accounts are offered in the state by TwinStar plus North Coast, Fibre Federal, Obee, Connection, Express and Peninsula credit unions.

Jekel said she expects others might join the list.

 “For most credit unions, I think that are waiting to see how it goes,” she said.

According to Heider of the credit union association, there are 950 “prize-linked savings” accounts in the state, and account holders have saved a total of $885,222 since accounts were authorized. 

Nationwide, 1.2 million members have saved more than $36 million since Michigan inaugurated the program in 2009.

With a major winner at TwinStar, CEO Kennedy said this week, “We’re just tickled to death.”

Jared Dance, TwinStar community development manager, made the call to Mickatavage announcing her prize.

“She was so excited,” he said. “She was ecstatic.”

She was among three statewide $5,000 winners, one more from TwinStar, in Vancouver, and a third from North Coast in Mount Vernon.

“I didn’t understand at first,” Mickatavage said. “Then he finally told me.”

A self-employed environmental engineer, she said she would spend the money on “something fun.”

 A member of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment in Yelm, she gives some credit for her victory to a “creative reality.”

Heider, of the credit union association, expects the program to grow as Oregon lawmakers consider prize-linked savings at their next full session.

“I think it will continue to prove itself,” she said.

Because even the losers win.

Said TwinStar’s Jared Dance, “Even if you don’t win, you’ve still got a CD full of money.”


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