According to recent reporting, about one in four Americans is underbanked, meaning they rely on expensive, potentially predatory financial products and services like payday loans and prepaid debit cards.
Approximately 7% of Americans is totally unbanked. They’re cash businesses — completely cut off from mainstream banking and financial services, and totally reliant on cash and cash equivalents (such as paycheck cards) to make ends meet.
In an increasingly cashless, digital, mobile society, that any American lacks access to affordable financial services is a scandal. The FDIC’s exhaustive survey of unbanked and underbanked households reveals remarkable resilience among those outside the financial mainstream, but let’s not kid ourselves: everyone deserves the assurance that comes with full access to traditional banking.
You don’t have to uncritically cheerlead for big banks to understand why this is the case. In my Money Crashers post on FDIC insurance, I describe in detail the benefits of banking with FDIC member institutions — not least, the promise of at least $250,000 in deposit insurance per account type. Virtually all accredited banks, from one-branch community banks and online-only institutions to multinational giants like Citi, offer FDIC insurance on eligible deposit products.
In a companion piece, I write about a less well-known type of account protection: SIPC insurance, which provides securities investors with limited protection against brokerage failure. SIPC insurance shouldn’t be conflated with FDIC insurance, and it doesn’t protect against market losses, but it’s worth taking ten minutes to read about before diving into the market.