U.S. households had better bank access in 2019, FDIC says. And then the pandemic happened.

David Brancaccio, Erika Beras, and Alex Schroeder Oct 20, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

U.S. households had better bank access in 2019, FDIC says. And then the pandemic happened.

David Brancaccio, Erika Beras, and Alex Schroeder Oct 20, 2020
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Before the pandemic, the number of households without either a checking or savings account was falling. But that trend could reverse given the economic crisis created by COVID-19.

Marketplace’s Erika Beras has more on these numbers. The following is an edited transcript of her conversation with “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio.

David Brancaccio: What are the numbers?

Erika Beras: First of all, these numbers are from 2019, so pre-pandemic. The survey found that households where no residents had a checking or savings account — or unbanked households — fell to 5.4% from 6.5% in 2017. And 1.5 million households had a member open one of those bank accounts. That’s the lowest rate since the FDIC survey began back in 2009. It reflects a time when unemployment was at a record low.

Brancaccio: Who are we talking about when we say the unbanked?

Beras: Black and Latinx households are more likely to be unbanked than white households. The rate for those groups in 2019 was 13.8% and 12.2%. For white households, it was 2.5%.

Bank account holders have to meet minimum balance requirements. Otherwise you end up paying monthly fees. And lots of people don’t have a few hundred dollars just to have a bank account.

Brancaccio: But these were 2019 numbers and 2020 is a different universe.

Beras: We are in a pandemic with a jobless rate at nearly 8%. This kind of economic turmoil means the number of unbanked households could rise again.

Brancaccio: And when a family has no bank, remind us of the concern.

Beras: In many cases, it means when you pay bills, you are paying additional fees for a money order. If you get checks, you have to rely on check cashing. You aren’t building credit or earning interest. And in this time of increased e-commerce, it makes it harder to buy things online.

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