FDIC: Share of ‘unbanked’ households in U.S. declines for third straight year

by Wesley Brown (wesbrocomm@gmail.com) 282 views 

The number of Americans without a savings or checking account fell for the third consecutive year in 2017, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s biennial national survey of so-called “unbanked” and “underbanked” households.

“The good news is that our nation’s banking system is serving more American households than ever before. The bad news is that even as the overall number of people who are unbanked has declined, 8.4 million households continue to lack a banking relationship,” said FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams.

The percentage of U.S. households that were unbanked in 2017 was 6.5%, the lowest rate recorded since the FDIC began conducting the survey in 2009. That number was down from 7% in 2015, and significantly below a high of 8.2% in 2011. That tally equates to 14.1 million adults in 8.4 million households not having a bank account, according to the survey.

The decline in the unbanked rate from 2015 to 2017 can be explained almost entirely by improvements in the socioeconomic circumstances of U.S. households, FDIC officials said.

The number of underbanked U.S. households was also down compared to 2015 levels.

In 2017, 18.7% of U.S. households were considered underbanked, or approximately 48.9 million adults in 24.2 million households. For purposes of the survey, the term “underbanked” refers to households that had an account at an insured institution, but also obtained financial products or services outside of the banking system.

Consistent with previous surveys, banking status in 2017 varied considerably across the U.S. population. For example, unbanked and underbanked rates were higher among lower-income households, less-educated households, younger households, black and Hispanic households, households headed by working-age individuals with a disability, and households with incomes that tend to vary from month to month.

Mobile banking continues to become an increasingly important way for consumers to access their accounts. In 2017, mobile banking was used by 40.4% of banked U.S. households to access their account, almost double the 23.2% four years earlier.

According to the survey results, 86% of banked households visited a bank branch in the past 12 months, and 35.4% visited ten or more times. This held true for households that used online or mobile banking as their primary means for accessing their accounts. For example, 81% of banked households that used mobile banking as their primary method visited a branch in the past 12 months, and nearly one-quarter visited ten or more times.

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. To view the survey, click here.

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