First the banks gave you unwanted insurance with the savings account, now unwanted Gamble !!
With interest rates barely above zero, the typical U.S. savings account has all the excitement of, well, waiting in line at the bank. But what if instead of marketing yet another CD or credit card, banks held raffles and gave millions away each month to savers? The local bank might feel less like the villain behind those big overdraft feesand more like a casino on the Vegas strip.
A bank in South Africa tried this in 2005. The First National Bank's Million-a-Month Account promised savers a chance to win 113 prizes a month, including a grand prize of 1 million South African rand (about U.S.$150,000 at the time). Within 18 months, the bank had more prize-eligible accounts than regular ones. These new customers, many of them poor, saved an extra 1 percent of their incomes, a recent studyfound, and boosted their overall saving 38 percent.
The only thing preventing a big bank from doing this in the U.S.: It's completely illegal. A bill in Congress -- which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Sept. 16 -- would change the law. If it’s passed by the U.S. Senate in the next few months and signed by President Barack Obama, banks of all sizes could start tempting savers with "savings promotion raffles."
Prize-linked savings accounts in South Africa are illegal now, too. In 2008, the South African Supreme Court shut the bank promotion down after three years. It ruled that under South African law only the government may run a lottery. Meanwhile, the accounts are thriving in the U.K., New Zealand and Sweden.