Banking on travel: Local seniors take advantage of trip program through their banks

Monday, May 3, 2010

Many seniors interested in "really going places" are not only looking to their travel agent for vacation planning, but to their bank. More and more financial institutions are now providing travel opportunities to their senior customers.

"We do this for them, not to make money. We try to provide them with the best trip at the lowest cost. It's all about having fun. When they are smiling at the end of the day, that's what it's all about," said Rob Callahan, GOLD Club coordinator with First Midwest Bank.

First Midwest Bank started the GOLD Club Travel Club in 2005 for their customers "50 and better" and offers both one-day trips and vacation-style getaways. Typical activities can be trips close to home, such as Grand Rivers, Ky., and as far away as a cruise to Alaska. Callahan said the response has been very good to their trips, and they average close to 50 travelers for their day trips and had 14 for their Alaskan cruise.

Carolyn Wright, of Jackson, started traveling with the Montgomery Bank Seniors Club last year and said the group offers her and her husband the chance to travel without the hassle.

"All the planning is taken care of. You don't need to worry about directions or driving. I am looking forward to more trips. There are all kinds of things to do," she said.

She has always wanted to travel and likes being able to have new experiences.

"You are getting out and seeing things and doing things that you couldn't when you were working. You didn't have the time," Wright said.

Wendy Hayes, group banking and senior club coordinator at Montgomery Bank, said the bank revamped the Montgomery Seniors Club in 2009 in response to customer feedback.

"We appreciate our customers and we wanted to do this for them. We have a strong, active retirement community and there was a need for fun, energetic activities," Hayes said.

She said the group belongs entirely to the members. She talks to them about what they want and plans activities based on their ideas.

In addition to trips to Branson, Mo., Illinois Amish country, upstate New York and St. Louis, the Montgomery Bank Seniors Club also sponsors more localized outings and seminars. One recent event, "Let's Do Cape," featured a tour of historic Cape Girardeau, led by a local historian.

Phyllis McClanahan of Cape Girardeau also travels with the Montgomery Bank Seniors Club and said it is a great way to socialize.

"It is a nice club. You get to be with other seniors and have a good time. All of the trips are so good," she said.

She said that through the senior club, she feels as if Montgomery Bank really values her and its senior customers.

While many banks offer senior travel clubs, there are different requirements to join, depending on the institution. More information can be obtained by contacting individual banks.

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