Thirsty for credit: How growing up in a banking desert can hurt members’ scores for life

As recently as two years ago, the practice of financial inclusion in the Southbridge neighborhood of Wilmington, Delaware, and the neighboring Route 9 Corridor was, in a word, lacking.

An area so lacking in financial institutions and access to sources of financial health that local residents Monique and Tarik Wheeler had to resort to the neighborhood liquor store to cash a check in the middle of a wet and rainy Friday night.

“Four dollars to cash a check,” said Monique. “[Out of] fifty dollars. They took four dollars out of it. That’s a lot.” They understand the predicament their residence in a banking desert has on their financial lifestyle, and wish there was a local financial institution they could join. Tarik says community residents along Route 9 Corridor depend on liquor stores to cash their paychecks because banks are so far out of reach.

“The bank’s not really near our way anyway, and most people are on bikes or walking, so it’s out of range. So we just work with the liquor stores, and that’s how they make their money off of us.” With an established financial institution like a credit union, Tarik says “They’re not taxing us for the money to come back. We could just get all of our money back and not (just) a little of it.”


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