Fed Survey: Unbanked Share of Americans Falls to 5 Percent

As economic growth continued, the number of unbanked Americans fell to 5 percent in 2017, according to the Federal Reserve’s 2017 Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households released today. The figure fell from 8 percent in 2015; meanwhile, the number of “underbanked” Americans — those with a bank account but who also use alternative financial services such as money orders or check cashing — fell from 21 percent in 2015 to 18 percent in 2017. The survey showed that 38 percent of Americans who follow a budget keep track of it through an electronic platform provided by their bank, including 41 percent of those aged 18-29.

Nearly three quarters of U.S. households surveyed last fall said they are “doing okay” or “living comfortably.” This figure is up more than 10 percentage points from 2013. Meanwhile, just 7 percent said they were finding it difficult to get by, a drop of nearly half since 2013. Thirty-three percent said they were better off than the year before, up six points from last year, while 15 percent said they were worse off, a two-point decline. About half said they were doing about the same.

The survey also saw improvements in savings practices. Fifty-nine percent (up nine points from 2013) said they could cover a $400 emergency expense in cash. Seven in 10 respondents said they could cover three months of expenses from savings alone or from a combination of savings, assets and credit if they lost their main source of income. Sixteen percent said their spending in the previous year exceeded their income, about the same as in 2015. The survey found that 25 percent of non-retired respondents reported having no retirement savings or pension, including just 13 percent of those over 50 — marking progress from previous years.