Magazine article American Banker

Debit Card Promo Ups Millionaire Population

Magazine article American Banker

Debit Card Promo Ups Millionaire Population

Article excerpt

A Chicago-area woman and her bank have given new meaning to the phrase: "You have to spend money to make money."

Carmen Reyes of Berwyn, Ill., won $1 million from St. Paul Federal Bank in a drawing she entered by spending with her debit card. The contest was part of a promotion designed to bring in new customers and encourage existing ones to use a MasterCard that St. Paul Federal began issuing in the spring.

"When I first got a call from St. Paul Federal, I thought it was a prank. I've never won anything, " said Ms. Reyes, who works in the accounts payable department of a furniture store.

To qualify, customers had to use their debit cards at least 10 times between April 23 and June 17.

St. Paul Federal, a $6.2 billion-asset Chicago thrift owned by Charter One Financial Inc. of Cleveland, promoted the contest widely, advertising in newspapers and on radio stations. It even hired a pitchman who knows how to win a cool million -- Joe Trela, who in March claimed the top prize on ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

The campaign generated 30,000 new accounts, while 120,000 debit cards were issued to established customers.

"It was a pretty expensive promotion, but it worked well because we issued so many debit cards that it made it cost-effective," said Anthony V. Sisto, division president of St. Paul Federal. "The odds were really good compared with winning the Lotto or answering the right questions to get onto Regis' show." (That, of course, would be "Millionaire" host Regis Philbin. …

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