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Inflation has personal loan balances surging

As consumers adjust their household budgets and living expenses to counter the effects of high inflation, recent findings show such rising economic costs are contributing to the increased balances for unsecured personal loans.

According to CUNA Mutual Group, credit union members are borrowing at record numbers, especially unsecured personal loans. In May of this year, credit union loan balances increased 14.6 percent, the fastest yearly rate since May 1995. Unsecured loan balances grew by 3 percent in the same period while other types of loan balances increased 2.3 percent, per the report. 

Kenny Cooper, vice president of lending at Neighborhood Credit Union, said the cooperative experienced significant growth in unsecured loans year-over-year and foresaw that it would continue as consumers find solutions to negotiate rising costs. 

“If a consumer is looking to take out unsecured debt, a credit union is the best option,” Cooper explained to Fox Business. “Not only do credit unions cap their interest rates . . . the personal relationship credit union members have with their credit unions can make it easier to secure loans. Credit unions tend to provide loans to those individuals who may have been underserved or overlooked by larger financial institutions.”

Many financial institutions were already under interest rate pressure on personal loans from such personal finance companies like SoFi, and new data reveals that credit unions are taking a larger section of that lending pie. 

“Many credit union members are taking on debt before interest rates rise further [to combat inflation] and to consolidate other loans,” said Steve Rickchief economist for CUNA Mutual Group. “We expect this trend to continue for the next six months before slowing in 2023. when interest rates will be reaching their peak.”

Consumers called, personal loans delivered in response to inflation

Personal loan debt reached $192 billion in the second quarter of 2022, according to TransUnion, a 31 percent increase since 2021. Consumers also took out larger amounts of money in response to rising inflation, the average loan amount totaling just over $8,000, compared to $7,000 at the same time last year. 

One significant driver of loan activity over the last three years was the increased number of fintech companies like QCash Financial that answered the call after the COVID pandemic made in-person banking inaccessible. The pace of innovation mixed with the effort among fintech companies is reinventing the necessity to increase access to personal loans whenever and wherever the consumer needs it.

Credit unions, particularly, offer inherent and unique organizational features that offer a much more personal member experience while saving capital by partnering with a fintech like QCash that can provide an easy onboarding experience. The process requires minimal maintenance while giving members a near-instantaneous mobile application experience that can literally change the trajectory of their lives and the lives of their families during these unpredictable and inflationary times.

If your credit union member experience finds itself considering an easy-to-manage, easily implementable small dollar lending platform, we invite you to go to our website and view a demo of the QCash Life Event Lending platform. 

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Zelle® Helps Your Members Transact Remotely, While Staying Connected

In the wake of the COVID- 19 pandemic and an increased reliance on digital and contactless payment options, person-to-person (P2P) payments technology continues to be more valuable than ever. Members need a safe and secure way to receive or send money, whether it is sending money to friends or family members or sending their share of the rent to a roommate.

In the universe of P2P, Zelle® has become the preferred way for many consumers to easily send and receive money. According to Aite-Novarica, Zelle® has rapidly grown to become the largest U.S. P2P payments network by total payments value sent since its launch in 2017, with payment flows that are now twice the size of the next largest standalone competitor.

Early Warning Services, LLC, the network operator behind Zelle®, reports that consumers and businesses sent 1.8 billion payments through the Zelle Network® during 2021, an increase of 49% from a year earlier. Those payments totaled $490 billion, up 59%1.

To support members with their P2P needs now and in the future, Co-op offers credit unions in the Co-op ecosystem a way to integrate Zelle® into their mobile banking solution. Credit union clients need only have Co-op account-based technology in place (widely supported by thousands of credit unions and all major processors) and the ability to offer Zelle® within their mobile banking solution.

Offering Zelle® at your credit union allows your members to quickly send or receive money directly from one U.S. deposit account to another, typically within minutes*. And because access to Zelle® is offered within your credit union’s online and/mobile experiences, members will appreciate the security and financial peace of mind.

Staying Connected to Members While Driving PFR Status

Staying connected to members and improving their daily lifestyle is key to becoming their primary financial relationship.

“As we learn more about what members expect from their primary financial relationship, it’s becoming clear that lifestyle, not just life stage, is at the heart of member loyalty,” said Co-op Chief Product Officer Bruce Dragt. “More than just a mobile payment solution, Zelle® is a powerful branding and engagement tool that allows credit unions to be there for members during common everyday moments — from splitting the cost of a lunch tab with friends to paying the sitter or paying the rent.  The member-facing technology of Zelle® furthers a credit union’s digital maturity while providing a payments experience that is fast, safe, and easy every day.”

A Zelle® Success Story for Credit Unions

Launching in 2020 with just a few beta clients and one digital provider, Co-op has grown its Zelle® offering to include more than 100 credit union partners and integrations with 13 digital providers. To date, nearly $3 billion has been transacted by more than 800,000 credit union members using Zelle® through Co-op, with enrollment and usage continuing to climb at an average of 7% per month. In an ongoing effort to provide solutions that evolve to meet member needs, Co-op plans to rollout support for small businesses in 2023.

“Our differentiator is our integration both in volume of partners and ease of install,” added Dragt. “We have already surpassed the usage volumes for all of last year in just the first six months of 2022. Co-op works with all the major digital providers and integrates with any core processor, making it fast and efficient for credit unions to engage their members by offering Zelle®. ”

One success story from the Co-op network, Las Vegas-based Clark County Credit Union, which serves more than 50,000 first responders, medical workers, and local government employees. The credit union was looking to replace its legacy P2P payment solution, which was not meeting member expectations. Implementing Zelle® through Co-op was the top option to deliver a superior member experience by offering a best-in-class solution and delivering it quickly and efficiently.

“We wanted to be part of that market and offer our members what they had been asking for, which is a fast, safe and easy way to send money. Since we have been live, we’ve seen tremendous growth,” said Zia Ibrahim, Digital Product Manager for Clark County Credit Union.

“The pace of growth is fascinating,” added Matt Becker, Chief Technology Officer for Clark County Credit Union. “In a year, Zelle® has achieved active usage numbers equivalent to those earned by online bill pay – a technology that’s been around for 20 years. Zelle® is a product that in some ways sells itself. Zelle® just works, and it works for the masses. It’s easy, and almost anyone in the U.S. can utilize it.”

Getting Started

Zelle® can be enabled at your credit union through a variety of integration options, including:

  • Pre-integration via credit union’s digital solution provider
  • Credit union-initiated digital provider integration
  • In-house integration for credit unions with a homegrown digital banking solution.

To make implementation of Zelle® easy and efficient for our clients, Co-op has partnered with multiple digital banking solutions to enable pre-integration with 13 digital platforms and continues to work with additional digital banking providers to enable this same level of pre-integration.

To request more information on Zelle® please contact your Co-op Client Business Executive, call 800.782.9042 or email

1Source: Zelle® press release Nearly Half a Trillion Dollars Sent by Consumers and Businesses with Zelle® in 2021

* U.S. checking or savings account required to use Zelle®. Transactions between enrolled consumers typically occur in minutes.

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Improving Member Retention with a Better Digital Experience

Credit unions have an advantage over other lenders when it comes to retention. But
to keep members happy over the long term, you need to meet them wherever they

Topics include:

  • How digital servicing tools have moved from optional to necessary.
  • How those tools have evolved to become more personal.
  • The importance of meeting members, specifically Millennials and Gen Z,
    where they are.
  • Security is the most essential puzzle piece.

Listen in as Jennifer Linamen of Black Knight discusses ways credit unions can use digital servicing tools to deepen and prolong member relationships.

Listen to the Podcast here:

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This cyber sleuth helps crypto con victims get their coin back

By: Sophie Hares

Delving into her first cryptocurrency scam as a cyber sleuth in training, Jonelle Still quickly realized she was dealing with a sha zhu pan, a racket that originated in China and translates as “pig butchering.” It’s a vivid term for when con artists fatten up victims (with compliments) before stealing their money.

In this case, the victim was a Frenchman who was lured into a Bitcoin investment scheme by a Chinese woman he met on Tinder. The woman — in all likelihood a group of swindlers — quickly made his digital coins vanish. (The man, who works in IT, asked to remain anonymous. Victims of such romance scams are often too embarrassed to come forward, a tendency scammers use against those they exploit.)

But after months of hard work, Still scored a rare win. By unraveling a tangle of blockchain transactions and working with French authorities to investigate shady crypto exchanges, she managed to retrieve half of the man’s bitcoins, valued today at about $40,000.  

 Fast-forward two years and Still is now director of investigations at CipherTrace, the Mastercard company that specializes in cryptocurrency intelligence and blockchain analytics. She helps companies combat money laundering, sanctions evasions and ransomware extortions while also training intelligence agencies and international police to uncover human trafficking and terrorist fundraising. In her spare time, she puts her skills to work to help everyday scam victims, like the Frenchman, reclaim their crypto.

“Anyone who loves to go down rabbit holes, who is curious and who has natural analytical skills makes for a good investigator,” Still says. “And patience is a requirement.”

Still’s work has become increasingly important as cryptocurrencies have exploded in popularity, propagating a flood of criminals following the trend. This dynamic resulted in reported crypto fraud losses of $680 million last year in the roughly trillion-dollar cryptocurrency market, according to Federal Trade Commission. Losses in 2022 could double that — consumers reported $329 million in losses to the FTC in the first quarter alone. That jump is due to a combination of factors, the FTC says: the lack of a bank or centralized authority to flag or track suspicious transactions, the difficulty in reversing crypto transfers and the influx of novice crypto traders still learning about the industry.

$680 million

Cryptocurrency fraud losses in 2021, according to Federal Trade Commission reports

For Still, tech skills didn’t top her list of credentials. Investigators need to think creatively to understand how criminals can exploit blockchain, the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies. And Still has always loved solving a good mystery.

Growing up with horses and goats in tiny Birdseye, Montana, Still, now 38, dreamed of becoming an astronaut before deciding that joining the military would give her the opportunity to continue her education without incurring massive student loan debts.

Swapping the big skies of Montana for the Air Force, she became a radar expert and deployed to Iraq before switching to intelligence gathering. Leaving the military after four years, she worked in Uganda and northern Iraq before obtaining two master’s degrees at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, in Monterey, California — one in international trade and economic diplomacy and the other in international policy and development.

There, she developed a passion for financial crime and Arabic and leaped at the chance to sign up for the CipherTrace intern program her professor suggested just before the pandemic hit.

Despite the complex underlying technology, Still says there’s little difference between blockchain crime and any other financial crime. Cryptocurrencies are just the latest way for criminals to steal, cartels to launder money or terrorist groups to fundraise.

In fact, blockchain transactions can be easier to track than cash, with even simple Google searches unlocking a wealth of information about cryptocurrency accounts and wallets.

“I’d rather track cryptocurrency than fiat currency any day of the week,” says Still, who teaches blockchain analytics as an adjunct professor at her alma mater.

Old-fashioned detective work is often the first step for the investigator. Still takes the time to get to know victims, analyze their business and find out about any disputes to find clues about why they were targeted.

“The ones who lose $5,000 to $10,000, it’s much more meaningful to them, It’s probably their life savings. When I get to help with those cases, that’s the best.”

Jonelle Still

The next step is to use CipherTrace’s de-anonymization tools to trace on-chain cryptocurrency transactions and to start to identify those hiding behind the trades. In one child trafficking case, police used CipherTrace’s investigations tool Inspector to track crypto transactions to a bitcoin ATM where they gleaned on-chain information that led to the girl’s release.

It’s rare that cases are solved so quickly, but that could change as investigators, prosecutors and law enforcement officers get up to speed on crypto fraud. Increased data sharing by exchanges and greater cross-border intelligence cooperation may soon reap rewards.

“When we all compare our own connections, this constellation emerges,” she says.

The CipherTrace pro bono investigations unit Still co-founded is pursuing more than 4,000 cases as it trains students to work with organizations such as the FBI and crypto exchanges to crack crimes.

For Still, getting a good outcome for victims and making sure small-time crypto investors retrieve their money is the most satisfying part of her job.

“The ones who lose $5,000 to $10,000, it’s much more meaningful to them,” she says. “It’s probably their life savings. When I get to help with those cases, that’s the best.”

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WestStar Credit Union raises over $10,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

October 11, 2022 – WestStar Credit Union and 126 other teams raised funds for the St. Jude Walk/Run event held at Town Square. Teams started raising funds in June of this year for the walk/run on September 24th. Of the 127 teams participating, WestStar was among the top contributors with a donation of $10,621 to St. Jude’s goal of $110,000. In previous years WestStar has been a top contributor with $11,585 donated in 2021 and $13,344 donated in 2019. Funds came from employee and member donations.

Team Captain, Matthew Burton, voiced the credit union’s excitement about being able to participate in the walk in-person after COVID interrupted the event in 2020 and 2021, “We’re all really happy to be able to come out and show our support for the kids of St Jude.”

Since its founding 60 years ago, treatments invented at St. Jude Children’s Research hospital have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent. 
WestStar Credit Union has been serving the Las Vegas and Reno communities since 1975 and is federally insured with the NCUA. The credit union provides financial services to over 21,000 members and has assets of $260 million. Membership in WestStar Credit Union is open to anyone employed in the Gaming Industry of Nevada and many other employer groups, including employees and members of AAA Nevada and members of the Friends of Nevada Wilderness. Family members and those living in the same household of anyone who is eligible are also eligible.  A full list of eligible employer groups can be
found on their website,

Megan Pieper, VP Marketing & eCommerce
WestStar Credit Union
Phone: (702) 791-4777 ext 5520