Number of Unbanked Households Still Falling

October 20, 2016, Written By Bill Hardekopf
Number of Unbanked Households Still Falling

The number of unbanked households fell to 7% in 2015, down from 7.7% in 2013 and 8.2% in 2011.

According to a survey from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), improving economic conditions are not solely responsible for the drop, as the rate of unbanked households fell further than expected based on economic factors alone.

The decrease affected a broad range of demographic groups. Unbanked rates for African American households dropped from 20.6% to 18.2%, and the rate for Hispanic households fell from 17.9% to 16.2%. Households with low incomes, defined as less than $15,000 per year, and households headed by people without a college education also saw a substantial decrease.

Not all demographics saw a decrease. Unbanked Asian households saw an increase from 2.2% to 4%.

“Developing a relationship with a bank helps consumers build assets and create wealth, makes them less susceptible to discriminatory or predatory lending practices, and can provide a financial safety net against unforeseen circumstances,” FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg said. “The decline in the share of households who do not having a banking relationship is a positive development, and the FDIC will continue working to help ensure households have access to safe, secure, and affordable banking services.”

The survey also explored the consequences of being unbanked. 88.2% of banked households deposit money for emergency savings into a bank account where funds are secured and guaranteed against loss. However, 67.8% of unbanked households keep emergency savings in their home or with family and friends, where there is no guarantee of safety or potential to generate earnings through interest.

The FDIC survey, which began in 2009 and is conducted in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau, also found that online and mobile banking is on the rise. Of those with bank accounts, 36.9% reported online banking as their primary method of accessing their bank accounts, compared to 28.2% who rely on bank tellers. However, use of bank tellers was still prevalent among lower-income households, less-educated households, older households and households in rural areas.

The use of smartphones for banking is also increasing. 9.5% of households rely on their mobile device to access their bank account, which is a substantial jump from 5.7% in 2013.

Other key findings include:

  • Only 56.3% of American households are saving for emergencies.
  • Most consumers are obtaining credit–credit cards, personal loans and personal lines of credit–from banks. 63.8% hold credit only from banks, 4.1% hold credit from only from non-bank sources, 4% hold credit from both and 28% have no credit.
  • Prepaid card use is on the rise. 9.8% of households used a prepaid card in the past 12 months, up from 7.9% is 2013. While prepaid cards are used across all demographics, they are most commonly used in lower-income households, less-educated households, younger households, African American households and working-age disabled households.
  • The majority of unbanked households say they believe banks do not offer the services they need, and they do not trust banks.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of October 20, 2016. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.

About Bill Hardekopf

Bill Hardekopf is the CEO of and covers the credit card industry from all perspectives. Bill has been involved with personal finance for over 15 years. He is a frequent contributor to Forbes, The Street and The Christian Science Monitor.
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