KAI RYSSDAL: U.S. banks have been trying to tap into the Hispanic population as a new source of revenue. By some estimates, half of the nation’s 40 million or so Latinos don’t have bank accounts. And Bank of America’s just the latest to roll out Hispanic-targeted services.
But the Wall Street Journal reported today it’s the first to go after a specific part of that market. Marketplace’s Sam Eaton has that story
SAM EATON: Bank of America has been offering credit cards to its Los Angeles-area customers who have bank accounts but little credit history. The move is aimed at drawing more business from the city’s large Hispanic population. The critics claim it’s also lending a helping hand to undocumented immigrants.
Bank of America says it requires customers to prove that they pay taxes in the U.S. But federal law states that citizenship or legal status isn’t required to open accounts.
BOA’s approach goes beyond that of other banks, like Wells Fargo, that have targeted checking accounts and mortgages specifically to Hispanics. Banking consultant Bert Ely says there’s a reason for that: banks aren’t allowed to control more than 10 percent of the nation’s total deposits.
BERT ELY: They are now forced because of the 10 percent cap to rely largely on organic growth or internal growth to build their customer base.
Banks aren’t the only ones that stand to gain. Robert Gnaizda
is with the Greenlining Institute.
ROBERT GNAIZDA: Any efforts that bring people from outside the underground into the regular economy have enormous incremental benefit to the society as a whole.
At least half of the 40 million Hispanics living in the U.S. don’t have bank accounts. But the group’s purchasing power is close to a trillion dollars a year. Small wonder Bank of America plans to take its credit card program nationwide.
In Los Angeles, I’m Sam Eaton for Marketplace.
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