The Unbanked Are a Market Full of Potential for Banks, According to a New Investigation

“Unbanked” Americans – consumers without bank accounts – often use alternative financial services to meet their banking needs. A new investigation by personal finance website, examines the transactional habits of the unbanked as well as how much their business is worth to banks, and uncovers that banks can actually boost their bottom line by serving Americans without conventional financial accounts.

EL SEGUNDO, CA (June 3, 2013) The 2011 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households describes “unbanked” households as “those that lack any kind of deposit account at an insured depository institution.”  The report finds that 17 million adults are unbanked in the America. GoBankingRates investigates the costs associated with being unbanked — from both the consumer and bank perspective — and discovers that the unbanked offer a unique value that banks and other traditional financial institutions have overlooked.

According to the FDIC report, many unbanked individuals are from low-income households that often do not meet the minimum requirements necessary to open bank accounts. However, GoBankingRates finds that a low-income household which earns $15,000 annually is worth $423.34 less per year in the eyes of banks than a household making $60,000 annually.

“It is this gap that drives some banks to either deny services to the unbanked, or aggressively market products and services to the unbanked that carry high bank fees and low deposit rates,” says GoBankingRates editor, Jennifer Calonia.

While the value disparity between bank customers and unbanked individuals is quite high, the investigation highlights the many financial needs of those who don’t have a bank account, presenting key opportunities that banks could be taking advantage of if they embraced the unbanked into their customer base more readily.

“Increasing bank fees in order to ‘afford’ the unbanked may be a quick solution for financial institutions interested in extending their services, but offering quality products and lower fees to the unbanked actually does big banks a greater service than piling on bank fees everyone hates anyway,” Ms. Calonia points out.

Common unbanked transactions cited by the report include:

  • Check Cashing
  • Money Orders
  • Wire Transfers
  • Personal Loans

“There is a lot of potential in serving the unbanked,” says Ms. Calonia. “The problem is that most banks aren’t interested in low-income markets, and they are currently unwilling to look at the unbanked as a long- term, communal partnership.”

The investigation reveals that beyond the numbers, the unbanked are a valuable avenue into their local community — one that can bring future financial growth if nurtured now.

See the full investigation here:

For questions about this report or to speak with Jennifer Calonia, please use the contact information below.

About is a national website dedicated to connecting readers with the best interest rates on financial services nationwide, as well as informative personal finance content, news and tools. collects interest rate information from more than 4,000 U.S. banks and credit unions, making it the only online rates aggregator with the ability to provide the most comprehensive and authentic local interest rate information.

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