The U.S. Postal Service last month quietly launched a pilot program in four U.S. cities offering expanded financial services at certain post office locations in Washington D.C., Baltimore, Falls Church, Virginia, and the Bronx, New York, according to news reports. Consumers may now access check-cashing services at these locations, and USPS is contemplating piloting additional offerings such as bill paying services, ATM access, expanded money order capabilities and expanded wire transfer capabilities, according to reports.
Offering postal banking services on a larger scale would require congressional authorization. However, the pilot program marks a concerning first step toward enabling USPS to enter the banking business. The American Bankers Association has long been a vocal opponent of postal banking, and has previously noted that it could be perceived as a government-endorsed provider competing with taxpaying banks and would create risks that USPS is ill-suited to manage.
“The solution to high retail check-cashing fees is a banking relationship, not a government-subsidized service through the post office,” ABA said in comments to the media today. “It’s easier than ever to open a bank account in this country, including Bank On-certified accounts, which are now available in more than half of all U.S. bank branches, and feature low costs, no overdraft fees, robust transaction capabilities such as a debit or prepaid card, and online bill pay. Policies that create new incentives for Americans to remain unbanked undercut significant efforts to bring people into the banking system so they can build for their financial future.”