FDIC: Share of ‘Unbanked’ Continues Downward Trend

The share of U.S. households that are unbanked continued falling in 2017, reaching 6.5 percent, according to the FDIC’s biennial survey of unbanked and underbanked households released today. Representing the lowest rate yet recorded by the FDIC survey, the drop is attributed to improvements in the socioeconomic circumstances of U.S. households. However, the survey also found that 75 percent of unbanked households are “not very likely” or “not at all likely” to open a bank account in the next year — up from 62.1 percent in 2013.

Among banked households, mobile banking was used to access an account by 40.4 percent of respondents — up from 23.2 percent just four years earlier. Even so, 81 percent of banked households that used mobile banking as their primary method visited a branch within the previous 12 months, and 23 percent made ten or more branch visits during the same timeframe. Among unbanked households, nearly one in six had visited a branch during the past year.

The survey also found that 14.8 million households had an unmet need for mainstream small-dollar credit, and that 22.7 million did not use mainstream credit in the prior 12 months.

FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams discussed the findings at ABA’s Annual Convention in New York today. “We have not necessarily created an environment where regulations are conducive to banks experimenting with how to get the underbanked and unbanked into the fold,” she said as part of broader remarks outlining plans for regulatory simplification. She also shared her own story as an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia to the U.S. at age 18 and how becoming eligible for mainstream financial products helped her feel more integrated with her new country.