Dwindling Ranks of the Unbanked

It turns out that getting a bank account in the U.S. these days is not so difficult after all. That was the news this week, after years of stories about the many unbanked among us and various possible government remedies for this, including having the Postal Service open deposit accounts. But, as this Associated Press report suggests, the incentive of having somewhere to wire those Covid relief benefits was enough to galvanize many holdouts into action. The fact is, however difficult some major banks made it for entry-level customers in the past (I had such an experience when moving to New York City in 1983), the industry has changed and some institutions seem to want your money so badly they will seek even the small fry out. If fees on otherwise unprofitable low-balance accounts remain a banking problem, the rules for entry to America’s 4,800 credit unions have been so loosened that most workers can access this alternative. Still, of course, there will be hardship cases, particularly among illegal-immigrant laborers. Yet, the cautionary tale here is that, despite a tendency among pressure groups and their attendant media to depict a nation full of helpless waifs hurting for state beneficence, few lack the means to muster at least stopgap solutions when necessary. Better recognition of this reality might serve to train public resources on those who do desperately need a lift.

Published by timwferguson

Longtime writer-editor, focusing on topics of business and policy, global and local.

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