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All About Prize-Linked Savings Accounts

Sharon Powell, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency

March 2016; reviewed by Shawna Faith Thompson, Extension Educator — Financial Capability.

Minnesota residents have a new, fun way to build savings. In June 2015, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill allowing credit unions in the state to offer prize-linked savings (PLS) accounts. This is good news for Minnesota residents who have found it challenging to save money on a regular basis.

What Is a Prize-Linked Savings Account?

PLS accounts combine the fun of cash prize drawings with the financial advantage of building savings. Here’s how PLS accounts work. People open a savings account that gives them the chance to win cash prizes by making deposits. Typically, small drawings are held every month and bigger drawings are held less frequently (maybe once or twice a year). PLS accounts essentially treat deposits as a tickets in a drawing and offer savers the opportunity to win cash with no risk of losing their savings.

Why Are PLS Accounts Successful?

Many people recognize the importance of building savings but have a difficult time figuring out a workable plan. PLS accounts give people an incentive to start saving money. The incentive of a chance to win a cash prize seems to be just the nudge that people need to save regularly! For instance, Michigan credit unions have offered PLS accounts since 2009 and, so far, PLS account holders have saved more than $28 million. Here’s what one Michigan accountholder said about her PLS account:

“If it wasn’t for (the PLS account), I wouldn’t have direct deposit. Now I have it and I like it. I started with $25 in my account. Now, I put in $100 every two weeks. Before this I had zero savings.”

More About PLS accounts

After opening a PLS account with a participating credit union, a customer earns an entry into the next prize drawing for every $25 he or she deposits in the account. Customers are allowed a maximum of four entries per month, although they can deposit as much as they want into the account.

Keep in mind that, because PLS accounts were developed to promote good savings habits, you will be charged a fee if you make a withdrawal from an account less than a year old.

Learn more about Minnesota’s PLS account program, “Wincentive Savings,” at the Minnesota Credit Union Network website.

Sources

Abbi, S., Hahnel, A., & Smith-Ramani, J. (2013). Building Financial Security Through Fun: Findings from the Save to Win Expansion. Allston, MA: Doorways to Dreams Fund.

Credit Union National Association. (2016, March 18). Minn. N.Y., N.C. report prize-linked savings success.

Doorways to Dreams Fund. (2015). Prize-linked Savings: Creating Financial Confidence and Opportunity

Related Resources

Being Unbanked: What Is It? What Are the Implications? — Increase your awareness of the unbanked population and the issues that surround their situation.

Wincentive Savings Consumer FAQMinnesota Credit Union Network — This document will answer all of your questions about prize-linked savings in Minnesota.

Checklist for Opening an AccountConsumer Financial Protection Bureau — Use this guide and checklist to make sure you have the required paperwork before opening a bank or credit union account. English | español

Selecting Financial Products and ServicesConsumer Financial Protection Bureau — Get the basics about common financial transactions, including ATM cash withdrawals and debit card purchases. English | español

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