Banks on Military Bases Need Greater Transparency for Troops
Many banks on military bases do not offer the protection or transparency soldiers need to make informed decisions about their finances, according to a new report from Pew Charitable Trusts. The study reveals a strong need for safe financial products for military personnel in America.
In the study entitled “Checks and Balances, Stars and Stripes”, Pew assessed 31 banks and 134 credit unions that operate on 71% of all Department of Defense installations in America.
They found that 42% of the banks and 17% of the credit unions do not offer account disclosures online, making it difficult for deployed soldiers to access information about their money.
Another issue is the way these banks handle their overdraft practices. Many banks allow an account to be overdrawn, and then charge a fee for each transaction that occurs after there is no money left in the account. There are some that make this an “opt in” setting on the account, but others make personnel “opt out” of this feature.
In a previous study, Pew discovered that 52% of Americans who had overdrawn their accounts within the previous 12 months did not know they had opted in for an overdraft. Only 56% of the banks and 14% of the credit unions in the Stars and Stripes study made the overdraft default option explicit to account holders in a stand-alone disclosure box or fee schedule.
Most banks that serve the military charge a fee for out-of-network ATM withdrawals. This fee is not always disclosed. 78% of banks and 79% of credit unions disclose a fee for out-of-network ATM transactions, while 94% and 77% respectively disclose information about free in-network ATMs. Only 67% of banks and 52% of credit unions disclose information about international ATM fees.
Military members need better access to account information in order to properly manage their finances and make wise decisions. Perhaps studies like this will lead to more transparency in the future.