Gruenberg credits industry, government with lowering unbanked rate

Efforts by banks and banking trade groups—along with federal government support—have helped drive the number of unbanked Americans to a new low, FDIC Acting Chairman Martin Gruenberg said Wednesday. Speaking during a housing industry conference, Gruenberg noted that the agency’s most recent survey of unbanked and underbanked households found that the percentage of the unbanked dropped to 4.5% in 2021, which was the lowest rate since the biennial survey began in 2009. One reason was the FDIC partnered with the IRS during the pandemic to support consumers as they opened accounts so that they could receive stimulus payments, he said. The acting chairman also credited ABA and other nonprofit groups, initiatives such as Bank On, and banks for offering more options to consumers.

“Over the last decade, an increasing number of institutions have offered accounts specifically designed to help address the needs of a wide range of consumers, including low- and moderate-income consumers,” Gruenberg said.

Since ABA encouraged every bank in the country to offer Bank On accounts two years ago, the number of accounts has risen nearly 700%, with certified accounts now available in more than 40,000 retail banking locations across the U.S., according to the association.