Neighborhood Allies’ Bank On Allegheny County initiative works to connect people with safe and affordable bank accounts. We recently launched a program integration focused on providing account access and financial education among youth working summer jobs.
During the first few weeks of Learn & Earn, a summer youth employment program delivered by
Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh, and Partner4Work, 250+ youth have taken part in financial
education training delivered by Neighborhood Allies. Youth participants have been learning about
financial topics such as money management, the benefits of being banked, and how to establish and
build credit. Additionally, dozens of these youth have been able to open their very own bank accounts
with no overdraft fees and no monthly maintenance fees – offering them the safety and convenience of
being paid with direct deposit, as well as a safe and hands-on way to develop their money management
Preparation for this Bank On integration started in early 2021, with nonprofit organization Cities for
Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund) providing technical assistance to Neighborhood Allies on non-
custodial bank accounts. CFE Fund’s Summer Jobs Connect Youth Account Priorities outline bank
account standards that are geared towards youth under the age of 18. In addition to no monthly
fees and no overdrafts, these transactional accounts do not require an adult to cosign or be on the
account with the youth. This account structure allows youth to have complete ownership and
responsibility of their money while providing safety nets as they navigate managing their first bank
Despite the mutual benefits to youth and financial institutions, and their proven success in other cities –
the availability of these accounts was extremely limited just a little over a year ago. Locally, only one of the
larger national banks offered non-custodial accounts that met CFE Fund’s youth account priorities. And
there were no options for those 14-15 years of age – youth old enough to obtain employment but not old
enough to open a bank account. In June 2021, Neighborhood Allies convened its quarterly Bank On
Allegheny County coalition meeting, which brings together community organizations, government
agencies, and local financial institutions to discuss ways of improving banking access and equity. The
focus of that meeting was youth banking, and with help of CFE Fund, the FDIC and others, it served as a
starting point for Neighborhood Allies to engage in conversations with other local financial institutions
interested in offering the youth accounts.
Fast forward a year later, and you’ll see a much-improved landscape in Allegheny County in terms of banking access for youth. This was in large part thanks to Tri-Valley Service Federal Credit Union beginning to offer their Bank On certified account as a non-custodial option for youth aged 14 and up. With the Learn & Earn program being open to ages 14-21, this was a critical milestone in the process, as Tri-Valley became the only local financial institution to offer non-custodial accounts for 14–15 year-olds. When this summer’s Learn & Earn programming kicked off, we again teamed up with Tri-Valley Credit Union, this time to provide on-site account opening at the Learn & Earn orientation for youth working with Homewood Children’s Village (HCV). HCV is one of the largest employers of Learn & Earn youth, and thanks to those partnerships and collaboration, over 30 youth were able to sign up for their own bank account ahead of their first day on the job.
While much progress has been and continues to be made, there remains a great need in our
communities for safer, easier, and more equitable banking access for youth. Per the latest 2019 FDIC survey on banking, the 15-24 age group has the highest rate of people being unbanked – young people
who must rely on costlier and/or inconvenient alternatives, such as check cashing services or waiting for
a family member to be able to cash their paycheck for them.
If you are with a local financial institution and are interested in learning more about youth banking, please reach out to Javier Janik, Program Manager of Economic Opportunity at Neighborhood Allies, at email@example.com. We would also like to thank First Commonwealth Bank for their financial support of our financial education delivery via the Educational Improvement.