“Unbanked” and “Underbanked” U.S. Households

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) released a survey on American households that are "unbanked" - have neither a checking account nor a savings account, and "underbanked" - have a checking account or savings account but rely on alternative financial services. Alternative financial services can include using a non-bank check cashing service, non-bank money order service or a payday loan service.

unbanked-and-underbanked-us-householdsThere is an estimated 9 million households that do not have a checking account or savings account which is 7.7 percent of U.S. households.

In addition to the unbanked households, there are an estimated 21 million households that are underbanked which is 17.9 percent of U.S. households. Not surprisingly, the most common reason  those households do not hold bank accounts is they feel they do not have enough money to warrant having a savings account or checking account.

The most frequent causes for an account application to be declined are (in order):

  1. Negative account screening
  2. Insufficient identification information
  3. Low credit score

Fortunately, almost half of those banks (49 percent) have the ability to override a negative result at a branch location while 25 percent offer "second chance" accounts that offer similar but somewhat limited privileges of a regular checking account.  It begs the question how many banks actually choose to exercise that flexibility on the consumers' behalf.

Unfortunately, not having or making use of a savings account or checking account usually costs more. Check cashing services are notorious for the fees they charge. If your credit is in trouble or you find yourself unable to get a regular bank checking account, you should at least use a low-cost service provider like WalMart.

Having a checking account, savings account or a certificate of deposit account is one of the first steps you can take to build your credit history. You can also combine a checking account or savings account with a debit card, which will also help you build a credit history. You can also pay bills online with most checking accounts.

For a more detailed look at the FDIC's survey visit Unbanked and Underbanked.

Author: Jason P. Jones
December 16th, 2009