I’ve had a bank account, almost consistently, since I was eight-years-old. Back then my great-grandmother opened up a savings account for me and began putting away money; frequently showing me the bankbook and the growing balances.
In high school I opened my own student account, and squirreled away some of the money my parents gave me. By college I was a banking pro, depositing my work-study checks, student loan refunds, and getting a little too acquainted with my debit card. As a matter of fact, it was my over-zealous use of plastic that (briefly) left me without a bank account and banned from the system for a year.
After a horrible case of money mismanagement in my senior year of college, I was $300 overdrawn on my account and Bank of America decided to shut me down. I was hit the scarlet letter and unable to open an account at another bank for a year.
While I could have easily slipped into costly the rhythm of relying on check cashing spots, buying prepaid credit cards, or walking around with loads of cash on me, I knew that I wasn’t about that life.
Luckily, I had a credit union account through my university and continued banking as usual, but that experience taught me a valuable lesson: never, ever get excluded from the banking system.
Unfortunately, after the financial meltdown rocked the country, millions of Americans now find themselves without bank accounts or access to the financial system.
A government survey shows about 821,000 U.S. households lost access to basic banking services between January 2009 and June 2011.
Roughly 10 million U.S. households, or 8.2 percent, have no access to bank accounts, according to a survey conducted by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. That’s up from 7.7 percent in the FDIC’s 2009 survey.
And an even larger percentage of Americans are relying on high-interest alternatives, even those with traditional bank accounts. The survey found 28.3 percent either lacked bank accounts or used payday loans, check-cashing services and other alternatives as of June 2011. That’s up from 25.6 percent in the previous survey.
The survey found 21.4 percent of black families and 20.1 percent of Hispanic families had no banking services.
While some may have opted out of the system, not having access to the banking system shuts many Americans out from being able to live comfortable lives.
Access to credit, home loans, business loans, and basic checking and savings services help many to climb into the middle class, but without financial access they are completely shut out. And with 27.4-percent of African Americans living in poverty, having access to the banking system is more important than ever.