Fed Survey: Unbanked Share of Americans at 6%

As economic growth continued, the number of unbanked Americans was at 6% in 2018, according to the Federal Reserve’s annual Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households released today. The figure was down 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 16 percent in 2018.

The survey also saw improvements in savings practices. Sixty-one percent (up 11 points from 2013) said they could cover a $400 emergency expense in cash, a benchmark often cited by policymakers. 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. The survey found that 26% of non-retired respondents reported having no retirement savings or pension, including just 13% of those over 50—marking progress from previous years.

Overall, three quarters of U.S. households surveyed last fall said they are “doing okay” or “living comfortably.” This figure is up 12 percentage points from 2013. Meanwhile, just 7% said they were finding it difficult to get by, a drop of nearly half since 2013. Thirty-one percent said they were better off than the year before, while 13% said they were worse off. The remainder said they were doing about the same.