Save to Win: A lottery where you can’t lose

Credit unions in four states offer a lottery that gives savers the chance to win small monthly prizes or a yearly grand prize — even if you don’t win you get to keep the money you put in, plus interest. Supporters of this approach say it appeals to low and moderate income households; who have a harder time building assets.

ANNOUNCER: “Tonight’s Mega millions jackpot is an estimated annuitized $149,000,000…”

KARLA MURTHY: it’s a moment that millions of Americans wait for each week.

ANNOUNCER: “Now, let’s see if we can make you a millionaire tonight…”

KARLA MURTHY: The chance to win a huge, life-changing amount of money.

ANNOUNCER: “A check for $10,000 dollars”

KARLA MURTHY: But now some states are experimenting with a different kind of lottery. One where you won’t necessarily win, but you can’t lose.

It’s something called a prize-linked savings account.

And twenty-seven year old Crystal Rose Hudelson was intrigued by a poster for one when she walked into her local credit union in Seattle earlier this year.

CRYSTAL ROSE HUDELSON: It had this girl– she was really cute, too, cute clothes and cute hair, and she had this sign up and you just need $25. And I thought to myself, “Well, what is this?”

KARLA MURTHY: It was for a savings program called ‘Save to Win.’ for every $25 dollars a member puts into their account, they are entered to win small monthly prizes ranging from $50 to $100 dollars, but also the chance to win one of four bigger prizes of $5000 next spring.

Even if you don’t win, you get to keep the money, plus interest.

The prize money is put up by the credit unions and their regional association as an incentive to get members to save.

The idea is new to the U.S, but it has been around for decades all over the world. At least eighteen countries have prize-linked savings options, including the U.K.

COMMERCIAL: “They’d found they’d won five thousand smackers. And gleefully did shout, ‘that’s mine…’ ‘It’s mine’ ‘no mine’ ‘no mine  the moral: buy premium bonds, win something worth really arguing about.”

KARLA MURTHY: Back in Washington State, Crystal signed up for Save to Win.

CRYSTAL ROSE HUDELSON: I’m not going to lose anything, so why not?”  And I keep telling everybody it’s my version of gambling.

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