THE BLOG
09/23/2015 04:27 pm ET | Updated Sep 23, 2016

Save to Win 101

Playing the Lottery Without a Chance to Lose

Who needs scratch-off lottery tickets and Powerball? Some credit unions are offering a program that allows you to win prizes as you save your money, at no risk to you. Not surprisingly, the program is called Save to Win.

The program was developed in Michigan in 2009 as an innovative way to encourage lower- and middle-income residents to participate in savings programs and develop better savings habits. So far, Save to Win is available in six states: a multi-state pool in Michigan, Nebraska, and Connecticut, with individual pools in North Carolina, Washington, and an initial entry into Virginia.

To enter, join a participating credit union and open an account known as a Save to Win share certificate. A searchable list of credit unions is available through a drop-down menu on the Save to Win home page. You must be 18 years of age or older to open an account and must meet the credit union's eligibility requirements.

You can open a Save to Win account for as little as $25. The first $25 earns an entry into the prize drawing, as does every $25 increment deposited afterward. While the funds in the certificate earn interest, you continue to rack up chances to win drawings with each $25 deposited. (See individual credit unions for the interest rate paid on the certificate.)

You can deposit as much as you want into the certificate, but the entries are limited to ten per month. Withdrawals are limited to one per twelve-month certificate term with a fee of $25 (it is, after all, SAVE to Win). Penalties may apply for withdrawing all your money and closing your account prior to the end of the twelve-month term; see individual credit unions for details.

To be eligible for any particular drawing, your account has to be kept open throughout the period for that drawing (monthly, quarterly, or annually). Save to Win is limited to personal accounts only (no businesses) and to one account per person. There are no monthly fees associated with Save to Win, and as long as you keep at least $25 in the account, the account will remain open.

At the end of the twelve-month period, your certificate will automatically roll over into a new one, allowing you to keep entering for more potential prizes. You can, of course, choose to cash in your certificate at the end of the term, but with continued chances to win prizes, why would you?

Prizes and drawing times vary between credit unions. However, prizes generally range from $25-$100 for monthly drawings and can be as large as $10,000 for the annual grand prize drawing. A complete list of the prizes and drawing periods may be found on the Save to Win website. Individual credit unions may also hold their own drawings and prizes off of the account, and it is possible to win both a credit union prize and a Save to Win prize in one drawing period. There is no hassle in claiming prize winnings; they are simply deposited in your account.

If you are struggling to save and have difficulty establishing a savings mindset, consider the Save to Win program. It's a nice incentive to establish savings while having fun and potentially winning prizes. Save to Win certainly is not Powerball or even a scratch-off ticket, but with Save to Win, you are not paying money for the privilege of playing -- and you will not be getting any interest benefits from a lottery ticket.

Photo ©iStock.com/CareyHope