The percentage of unbanked Americans decreased in 2021 to 4.5%, according to the FDIC’s recently released National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households. The percentage, which represents about 6 million households, is the lowest it’s ever been since the FDIC began conducting the survey in 2009, and down from a high point of 8.2% in 2011.
Bank On Allegheny County is proud to be a part of the growing Bank On movement across the country that continues the important work of connecting people to safe and affordable bank accounts. With 11 local financial institutions offering a certified Bank On account, Allegheny County residents now have more access and more options to open an account that’s right for them. In fact, data from the American Bankers Association shows that Bank On certified accounts were accessible to 100% of low- and moderate-income households in Allegheny County in 2021 (defined as a bank or credit union offering a certified account located within a 2-mile radius).
In addition to the nationwide increase of banks and credit unions offering Bank On accounts, there were a multitude of programs and partners that contributed to the more than 1 million households that became banked between 2019 and 2021. The FDIC found that 35% of recently banked households reported that receiving a government benefit payment, such as a pandemic stimulus payment, contributed to them opening an account. The IRS’ creation of an online portal to provide banking information to receive stimulus payments, the child tax credit, and unemployment benefits created a critical banking access opportunity. Locally, Bank On Allegheny County partnered with the IRS and community organizations in promoting these account opening touchpoints.
Despite all the good news to come out of the report, it’s important to remember that there is still a lot of progress to be made. There are still nearly 6 million households outside of the mainstream banking system, and those households are overrepresented by people of color. In addition, there are 18.7 million households that the FDIC defines as underbanked; households that have bank accounts but still rely on alternative financial services with high fees such as payday lenders or check cashers. Continuing to increase awareness and knowledge, not just among consumers but among financial institutions and community organizations, remains critical work that Bank On Allegheny County is proud to lead at a local level.