Encouraging credit union members to re-engage with a savings CD

Experiment Type
Field Experiment
Increase program retention
Increase short-term savings
Focus Areas
Marketing & messaging
Behavioral Concepts
Lake Trust Credit Union
Partner Type
Bank/Credit Union

What Happened

It is unclear. While this study failed to find a statistically significant difference between conditions, 42% of those who opened the email made a deposit in the following month. Although this may sound good, it is unclear if a similar proportion would have made a deposit in the absence of reminders.

Lessons Learned

While it is unclear what the main effect of the reminder email itself was, this study found that a simple reminder is just as effective as a goal-oriented behavioral nudge via email.


When we think about how we might encourage people to save, we commonly offer financial incentives or increased interest rates. People can take advantage of these incentivized savings products to earn more on their savings. Unfortunately, many of these beneficial products go underutilized.

To explore how we might use behavioral science to increase uptake and utilization of these kinds of specialty products, we again partnered with Lake Trust Credit Union. Lake Trust had recently launched the Aspire CD. The Aspire CD has features that encourage savings such as allowing members to make interest-earning deposits into the CD during the two-year CD term. A key feature is that members create a savings goal amount when they open the CD. If the member meets their goal amount, they can withdraw the money early without penalty.

While the Aspire CD attracted interest initially, deposit activity among members with the CD was markedly bimodal. Some members were highly engaged: 26% of members with the CD made six deposits or more. However, 30% never made another deposit after the initial opening. Together with Lake Trust, we worked to see if we might encourage people in this second group, who opened the account but have not used it, to re-engage with the account.

Key Insights

Opening the account takes around ten minutes or longer and requires members to deposit a minimum of $50. Why were some individuals not taking advantage of the CD even though they invested the initial deposit in order to open Aspire CD?

The idea that someone plans to do something and then doesn’t follow through is referred to as the intention-behavior gap. Despite one’s best intentions, without additional support, goal pursuit may end in failure. We identified two possible psychological barriers to deposit activity despite account opening.

  • The environment in which members open the account is very different from the environment in which they make deposits for the account. The account opening process generally takes place at the branch and often includes a personal conversation about one’s financial and life goals. Subsequent deposits are likely online and impersonal, and so it may be difficult for people to connect deposit activity to their goal.

  • There is no urgency, accountability, or structure to help the member work towards their goal and make deposits. Aspire CD holders do not receive follow-up reminders to contribute, so the account could simply be forgotten or ignored.


We hypothesized that simply asking members to think about the specific goal they had in mind when they opened the account would increase the likelihood they would re-engage with the account. A simple prompt with instructions can be an effective path to action in its own right. However, we expected that including an additional prompt to think about one’s original goal and its importance would increase deposit behavior.

Emails were sent to all 286 Aspire CD account holders with active email addresses. Members were randomly assigned to receive one of two versions of the email:

  • A control version that reminded members of the account and asked them “How much would you like to add to your account?"

  • An experimental condition that also prompted members to remember why they opened their account. Specifically, these members were asked, “What goal are you saving for? Why is this goal important to you?”

In both conditions, the email prompted the member to make a deposit and gave clear instructions as to how to do that, including a direct link to a deposit page.


Just about 35% of the 286 recipients opened the email. Of the 100 members who saw the email in total, only 7 total members clicked through between both conditions. There were no significant differences between the two groups.

We also examined deposit activity in the month following the emails. Of the 100 people who opened the email, 42 made deposits in the following month. There were no statistically significant differences between conditions. These results suggest that simply reminding someone of their goal was as effective as our added behavioral nudge.