published Friday, August 17th, 2012

Banks around Chattanooga area give away gasoline

Several cars receive free tanks of gas at the "Take Back Your Banking" event held at Hi-Tech Gas Station on Dayton Boulevard in Red Bank on Thursday. Three community banks --Citizens State Bank, Mountain Valley Bank, and Capital Bank -- teamed up to give free gas to the first 200 cars at the gas station beginning at 9 a.m. in an effort to promote a return to community banks over national ones.
Several cars receive free tanks of gas at the "Take Back Your Banking" event held at Hi-Tech Gas Station on Dayton Boulevard in Red Bank on Thursday. Three community banks --Citizens State Bank, Mountain Valley Bank, and Capital Bank -- teamed up to give free gas to the first 200 cars at the gas station beginning at 9 a.m. in an effort to promote a return to community banks over national ones.
Photo by Alyson Wright.

WHAT IS KASASA?

Kasasa is a national brand alliance that partners with community banks and credit unions to offer free checking and savings accounts. The brand, which relies heavily on online banking, also offers opportunities for customers to earn higher interest rates than national banks and perks like ATM fee refunds.

Source: Kasasa

LOCAL KASASA BANKS

• Citizens State Bank in Jasper, South Pittsburg, Kimball, Monteagle, Tracy City, Whitwell and Coalmont, Tenn.

• Mountain Valley Bank in Dunlap and Monteagle, Tenn.

• Capital Bank in Fort Oglethorpe, Ringgold and Chickamauga, Ga.

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Zach Faulkner was driving down Dayton Boulevard on his lunch break Thursday when a hubbub around the Hi-Tech Gas station caught his eye.

Though the station's lit marquee read that regular gas was $3.33 per gallon, fluttering signs along the road proclaimed different news that was sweet to Faulkner's eyes and his 2002 Toyota Tundra's tank: Free Gas.

Faulkner was among 200 people who waited Thursday in a line snaking around the station as three community banks joined for a promotion that involved giving away at least $4,000 in free fuel.

On Thursday, the first 200 people to come into the station between 9 and 11 a.m. were given $20 worth of gas. By 7 a.m., the parking lot was packed, said Hi-Tech's owner, Kenny Patel.

"It has been absolutely crazy," he said.

Capital Bank, based in North Georgia, and Citizens State Bank and Mountain Valley Bank in the Sequatchie Valley area joined forces to host the gas giveaway. The banks were spreading the word about their services and about Kasasa -- a national brand alliance that allows small banks to offer free checking and savings accounts, higher-than-average interest rates and cash back on debit card purchases.

With an average 18 cent-per-gallon spike in gas prices in the past two weeks, orchestrators of the event said many people are expressing frustration with oil prices, the economy and big banking.

"Everybody needs gas," said Joe Haskins, chairman and CEO of Capital Bank. "We thought this would be a good thing to get the consumers' attention, to remind them that they can regain control of their banking.

"You know everyone's saying 'eat local' these days. We're saying 'bank local,'" said Haskins, who, along with officials from the other banks, was pumping gas into cars.

The Red Bank event was one of 20 held around the country this week as community banks gave away $80,000 worth of gas to raise awareness about Kasasa offerings.

The message worked. Faulkner, who is regional vice president for LendSmart Mortgage in Hixson, scheduled a meeting today with Haskins' bank.

"Our business has just left several large banks because of the fees and structures," said Faulkner. "It's nice to know a local bank out there will still stand behind the consumer and waive fees. It's very rare."

Lea Whitson, marketing coordinator for Citizens State Bank, said reaction to the giveaway was across the board.

"We've had folks who just stayed on their cellphones the whole time, and we've had people like one woman who told us her car was on empty and she wasn't sure she could afford to fill it up today," Whitson said.

Patel said the event helped the gas station double its typical gas sales.

"I've already asked these guys to come back to the new gas station I'm opening up the street," said Patel. "It's been a good day."

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