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Share of U.S. Households without a Bank Account Drops

October 21, 2016 / Source: FDIC

Unbanked Rate Declines to 7 Percent in 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 20, 2016

Media contact:
Barbara Hagenbaugh
(202) 898-7192
bhagenbaugh@fdic.gov

The number of U.S. households without a bank account fell significantly in 2015, according to the National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households released by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) on Thursday.

Seven percent of U.S. households were unbanked in 2015. That was the lowest share in the survey's history and a decrease from 7.7 percent in 2013 and 8.2 percent in 2011. While improving economic conditions during the two years through the 2015 survey account for part of the drop in the unbanked rate, the rate fell further than expected based on economic factors alone.

The decline in the share of unbanked households was broad based. Unbanked rates among black and Hispanic households, for example, fell about 10 percent. The unbanked rate for black households dropped from 20.6 percent to 18.2 percent, and for Hispanic households it fell from 17.9 percent to 16.2 percent. Households with very low incomes (i.e., less than $15,000 per year) and households headed by individuals without any college education also saw their unbanked rates fall significantly.

Still, not all demographic groups saw decreases. Notably, unbanked rates for Asian households increased during the two-year period from 2.2 percent to 4 percent.

"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 have 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 results illustrate the consequences of being unbanked in the United States. More than one-fifth of unbanked households reported saving for unexpected expenses or emergencies in the past 12 months. Of those who were unbanked and saved, 67.8 percent reported keeping emergency savings in the home, or with family or friends. This contrasts sharply with the 88.2 percent of fully banked households that deposited their emergency savings in a bank account, where the funds are secure, guaranteed against loss, have the potential to generate earnings, and may be used for other purposes, such as securing access to mainstream credit.

The FDIC survey began in 2009 and is conducted every other year in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau. It provides detailed national, state, and local data to inform understanding of access to banking and to support economic inclusion efforts. The survey measures the share of households that are unbanked, meaning no one in the household has a bank account. It also measures how many households are underbanked, meaning they have a bank account but look outside the banking system to meet transaction or credit needs.

Taken together, 27 percent of U.S. households were unbanked or underbanked last year.

Use of online and mobile banking to access accounts increased substantially from 2013 to 2015. Some 36.9 percent reported online banking as their primary method for accessing a bank account compared to 28.2 percent relying on bank tellers. Although teller use decreased between 2013 and 2015, it remains a popular mode of access, particularly among segments of the population that had higher unbanked and underbanked rates. Use of bank tellers was especially prevalent for lower-income households, less-educated households, older households, and households located in rural areas.

Use of smartphones to engage in banking activities continues to grow at a rapid pace. Some 9.5 percent of households reported relying on mobile banking as their primary method for accessing a bank account, up sharply from 5.7 percent in 2013. Consistent with the 2013 survey, this growth presents promising opportunities to increase economic inclusion.

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