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ABA: The American Bankers Association
Issue

Access to Banking

ABA Position

Having a bank is a foundational element of long-term financial well-being and a more inclusive economy. To ensure that more individuals have the advantages of a bank account, ABA is working with policymakers to help dismantle the remaining impediments to bank account access, which disproportionately affect low-income households and communities of color.

The banking industry continues to embrace new technologies and innovative approaches to provide checking, saving and money market accounts to unbanked individuals. We are already seeing significant success with easily understandable, low- to no-cost products and services through initiatives like Bank On.

Support Bank On. Congress and the states should work within the existing retail banking structure to encourage and support programs designed to bring more Americans into the regulated banking system. ABA is working closely with Bank On, an initiative of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, and nearly two dozen core service providers to encourage every bank to offer a low- or no-fee certified account. Today, these accounts are available at over 32,000 bank branches in all 50 states.

Direct Payments Program. Government benefit programs should encourage benefits recipients who are unbanked to open basic low- to no-cost bank accounts to receive their payments digitally. Many households have identified lack of money needed to open an account as a primary reason for not having a savings, checking or money market account. Facilitating seamless direct deposit of government benefits into low- and no-cost bank accounts is an important opportunity to build confidence and familiarity with bank services for a group who may otherwise mistakenly believe banking is out of their reach.

Rural Broadband. Congress should prioritize efforts to extend broadband internet access to underserved communities, especially rural areas. As banking and other essential services are becoming increasingly more digital, we must provide reliable and affordable broadband internet access to communities historically unbanked or underbanked.

Language Access. Policymakers should examine factors that have contributed to the growth in bank accounts for Black and Hispanic households. Financial institutions should also be encouraged to market products and services in Spanish and other non-English languages to reach these potential customers.

Financial Education. Public-private partnerships and coalition-based initiatives focused on financial education have proven to be one of the most successful ways to ensure increased financial well-being. Policymakers should encourage and support private sector efforts to advance financial education and messaging to underserved communities, including limited English proficient households.

Alternative Identification. Policymakers and bank regulators should explore ways to expand alternative means for identification for unbanked individuals who do not have access to standard forms of identification. Challenges with obtaining verifiable and accurate identification of individuals often impedes opening bank accounts for those who want and need the financial advantages of an account.

Public banks are not the solution. Efforts by federal and state governments to create a duplicative system of consumer accounts is unnecessary and potentially destabilizing to the financial infrastructure that supports our country’s economic growth. Numerous studies by state and local authorities have already determined that these are not practical or viable solutions. In fact, prior attempts by the government to mirror services provided by the private banking sector have led to severe mismanagement and the loss of taxpayer funds.

The banking industry continues to embrace new technologies and innovative approaches to provide checking, saving and money market accounts to unbanked individuals. We are already seeing significant success with easily understandable, low- to no-cost products and services through initiatives like Bank On.

Support Bank On. Congress and the states should work within the existing retail banking structure to encourage and support programs designed to bring more Americans into the regulated banking system. ABA is working closely with Bank On, an initiative of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, and nearly two dozen core service providers to encourage every bank to offer a low- or no-fee certified account. Today, these accounts are available at over 32,000 bank branches in all 50 states.

Direct Payments Program. Government benefit programs should encourage benefits recipients who are unbanked to open basic low- to no-cost bank accounts to receive their payments digitally. Many households have identified lack of money needed to open an account as a primary reason for not having a savings, checking or money market account. Facilitating seamless direct deposit of government benefits into low- and no-cost bank accounts is an important opportunity to build confidence and familiarity with bank services for a group who may otherwise mistakenly believe banking is out of their reach.

Rural Broadband. Congress should prioritize efforts to extend broadband internet access to underserved communities, especially rural areas. As banking and other essential services are becoming increasingly more digital, we must provide reliable and affordable broadband internet access to communities historically unbanked or underbanked.

Language Access. Policymakers should examine factors that have contributed to the growth in bank accounts for Black and Hispanic households. Financial institutions should also be encouraged to market products and services in Spanish and other non-English languages to reach these potential customers.

Financial Education. Public-private partnerships and coalition-based initiatives focused on financial education have proven to be one of the most successful ways to ensure increased financial well-being. Policymakers should encourage and support private sector efforts to advance financial education and messaging to underserved communities, including limited English proficient households.

Alternative Identification. Policymakers and bank regulators should explore ways to expand alternative means for identification for unbanked individuals who do not have access to standard forms of identification. Challenges with obtaining verifiable and accurate identification of individuals often impedes opening bank accounts for those who want and need the financial advantages of an account.

Public banks are not the solution. Efforts by federal and state governments to create a duplicative system of consumer accounts is unnecessary and potentially destabilizing to the financial infrastructure that supports our country’s economic growth. Numerous studies by state and local authorities have already determined that these are not practical or viable solutions. In fact, prior attempts by the government to mirror services provided by the private banking sector have led to severe mismanagement and the loss of taxpayer funds.

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Our Experts

Kitty Ryan

Vice President and Senior Counsel, Regulatory Compliance & Policy

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Rob Rowe

Rob Rowe

VP & Senior Counsel, Consumer and Regulatory Compliance

Compliance

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Steve Kenneally

Steve K. Kenneally

SVP, Payments

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