Dallas-based Bask Bank was looking to differentiate itself from institutions whose savings accounts only offer low interest rates.
"The two things that struck me was a lot of savings accounts are simply generic in nature," Matt Quale, the bank's CEO, told Banking Dive. "People have savings goals, but the actual savings account doesn't help them get where they want to go. And one of the biggest goals that we saw was that people save for travel."
Quale said he was also hearing from customers that "interest just isn't interesting."
"It doesn't pay a lot. It's just pennies on the dollar," he said. "So we really thought that this American Airlines offer was something that would have a strong, strong response to the marketplace."
The offer to which Quale is referring rewards customers with American Airlines AAdvantage miles instead of interest for every dollar they save. Bask Bank, Texas Capital Bank's new digital effort, launched a savings account with that perk last week.
Bryce VanDiver, a partner at consultancy firm Capco, called the account a unique product in the market.
"It’s a program with one of the top airlines, it gives the bank cheaper funding through savings and, in return, customers get to earn points toward one of the top redemption categories, which is travel," he told Banking Dive.
"I think this is just the tip of the spear for new use cases and different ways of thinking about loyalty, so that banks can really double down on the customers that are profitable to them by delivering the services in their rewards, how they want it and when they want it, which has largely not been the case for a lot of these monolithic redemption programs that have existed," VanDiver said.
VanDiver said the "stickiness" of Bask’s account model may appeal to banks that are trying to keep the kind of customers who chase perks such as high annual percentage yields or credit-card account-opening bonuses.
Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services revealed during a recent earnings call it has run into issues with some customers taking advantage of cash bonuses it offers for opening new checking accounts.
The bank offers up to $300 to customers who open a new virtual wallet account if they set up minimum direct deposits, according to American Banker.
"There is a lot of mischief in that," PNC CEO Will Demchak said on the call. "The percentage of people who basically are taking the cash, going through the motions and never using the account have made that option less attractive to us than some other things we're doing."
Airline perks are the sort of incentive that might persuade customers to continue banking with Bask, VanDiver said. "In some ways it could be seen as a defensive move, in that you’re bringing someone in from out of market or out of your geographic footprint who is chasing a higher yield, but in order to keep them around, you're offering the airline partnership as sort of a unique way to keep them invested in banking with you."
VanDiver said he thinks it’s just a matter of time before banks offer similar perks to their corporate customers.
"You can sort of get pretty creative quickly on the different novel use cases that are available out there — not just on the consumer side, but the commercial side," he said.
Quale said the bank is open to considering corporate accounts.
"I certainly think that's something we should look at," he said. "If we get a lot of feedback on that, that's something we can certainly do."
Asked if the bank plans to partner with other brands for perks, Quale said the company will continue to rely on feedback from its customers.
"We're going to go where our customers want to go next, so depending upon what kinds of perks or rewards they're looking for, we're going to help them," he said. "What I'm really cognizant of is just the stress that people feel between saving for tomorrow and living for today."
Quale said the American Airlines deal lets people do both.
"You put money aside and its earning rewards that help you travel," Quale said. "So I think as our customers provide more feedback and say, 'Here's what we're looking for next,' we're going to work with American or other partners to bring that to them."