The percentage of Americans who do not have a bank account fell to a record low last year, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Tuesday, a sign that the economic fortunes of the country's most vulnerable people continues to improve.
In 2017, approximately 6.5 percent of U.S. households did not have a primary bank account. That is down from 7 percent in 2015 and from a high of 8.2 percent in 2011. That translates into roughly 14.1 million adults without a bank account.
Not having a bank account, also known as being "unbanked," can make everyday life more challenging. Saving money in a secure place becomes more difficult, doing any sort of online transaction is nearly impossible, and everyday bills need to be routinely paid through expensive check cashers. Without a bank account, it's also impossible to use other financial services like paying with credit cards, buying a house, or even taking out a payday loan.
The reasons for not having a bank account remained steady from previous surveys, with "not having enough money" being the No. 1 reason for doing so. Not trusting banks was another popular reason for not being banked.
The biggest improvement happened among black and Hispanic households. The number of black households without a bank account fell to 16.9 percent last year, according to the FDIC, while 14 percent of Hispanic households were without a bank account. Those figures are down from more than 20 percent of black households and 18 percent of Hispanic households in 2013.
Even though the FDIC survey showed noticeable improvements, there were still places that showed many Americans struggle to access basic financial needs.
Roughly 19 percent of American households are considered by the FDIC to be "underbanked," which means they have a primary bank account but use non-traditional financial services like pawn shops, payday and auto title loans, check cashers, and money transfer services. Additionally, one in five Americans are known as "credit invisible" which means they did have any sort of mainstream credit file, which makes it tough to apply for credit cards and get a mortgage.