More than one in four Americans are Unbanked or Underbanked

More than one in four Americans are Unbanked or Underbanked

The FDIC updated its 2009 figures (based on 2008 Census data) of who uses what kind of basic financial services and released them yesterday.  It’s not just any four years later, but marks a period that represents significant change in the economy and individual American’s lives.  What did we learn?  Basically, there are more people who underutilize traditional financial institutions (banks and credit unions) and rely more significantly on alternative financial services (check cashers, payday lenders, etc) – but not dramatically more, 2011 vs 2008.

“More than one in four households (28.3 percent) are either unbanked or underbanked, conducting some or all of their financial transactions outside of the mainstream banking system.”

We’re talking about 68 million people. Honestly, this is smaller than I would have expected, but perhaps doesn’t yet fully reflect some of the regulatory changes that were introduced in the wake of the financial crisis.  Certainly, bankers like Jamie Dimon, who have been crying foul that they will be forced to let go of their low-end customers as a result of draconian new rules seem overly dramatic.  And the growth in prepaid and anger in banks, while real, are not as exaggerated as I had expected.  I think this is good news for people who think of this segment as “underserved.”  Relative to the dramatic times in which we live, even lower income people are maintaining a relative equilibrium in how – and with whom – they manage their day to day finances.

We will soon share an update on Core and CFSI’s market size for fees and interest charged to the underbanked, to show how the industry is changing at a more granular level.

Download the FDIC report here, if you’re interested.