Many Americans Are Ditching The Banking System

In the aftermath of one of the worst recessions in history, more Americans have limited or no interaction with banks, instead relying on check cashers and payday lenders to manage their finances, according to a new federal report.

Not only are these Americans more vulnerable to high fees and interest rates, but they are also cut off from credit to buy a car or a home or pay for college, the report from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said.

Released Wednesday, the study found that 821,000 households opted out of the banking system from 2009 to 2011 and that the so-called unbanked population grew to 8.2 percent of U.S. households.

That means that roughly 17 million adults are without a checking or savings account. Another 51 million adults have a bank account, but use pawnshops, payday lenders or rent-to-own services, the FDIC said. This underbanked population has grown from 18.2 percent to 20.1 percent of households nationwide.

The study also found that one in four households, or 28.3 percent, either had one or no bank account. A third of these households said they do not have enough money to open and fund an account. Minorities, the unemployed, young people and lower-income households are least likely to have accounts.

Stubbornly high unemployment and underemployment have placed millions of Americans in precarious financial positions, leaving them unable to absorb overdraft charges or minimum-balance fees.

In the past year alone, Wells Fargo, Capital One and SunTrust have alerted customers to pending fee hikes on checking accounts or have raised overdraft charges. Banks say service charges are needed to offset the loss of revenue from a cap on debit-card transaction fees imposed by the government.

Read the rest at The Washington Post