News Column

More Fla. Households Forgo Bank Accounts, Survey Says

Sept. 13, 2012

Arlene Satchell, Sun Sentinel

money news

More South Florida households are going without bank accounts, according to a federal study released Wednesday.

In 2011, some 206,000 households in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach metropolitan statistical area or 9 percent of 2.28 million area families were "unbanked" or didn't have bank accounts that year, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. study showed.

That compares with 194,000 households without bank accounts in 2009.

Households that are unbanked do not have any deposit accounts at an insured institution, FDIC said.

Among the hardest-hit groups were lower-income households, non-Asian minorities such as Blacks and Hispanics, young people and the jobless, the bank regulator said.

The ranks of "underbanked" households in the Miami metropolitan area -- those with a bank account that also relied on alternative financial services such as check cashing and payday loans -- also rose in 2011 to 509,000 from 296,000 two years prior.

Financial analysts say the dip in bank account ownership is due partly to new regulation that has led to higher fees and growing consumer discontent.

Many banking institutions have added or raised fees and charges to recoup some of the revenue previously generated from products such as debit cards.

"Banks have been pushing out unprofitable customers," said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com in North Palm Beach. In turn "customers are throwing up their hands and looking for less costly alternatives."

Many are opting for prepaid debit cards to make it easier to budget monthly expenses and avoid costly bank overdraft fees, McBride noted.

Higher overdraft fees and service charges and minimum balance requirements are just a few of the reasons cited in the study as deterrents for opening bank accounts.

For Hispanics households, obstacles to obtaining an account typically included a lack of ID, credit problems or prior banking history issues.

Some households without bank accounts cited a lack of comfort and trust of banks as barriers to opening accounts.

Statewide, some 570,000 households didn't have bank accounts last year, up from 527,000 two years ago, when the survey was first conducted. About 7.3 percent Florida households didn't have a bank account in 2011, compared with 6.9 percent in 2009.

Nationwide, one in four U.S. households or 28.3 percent either didn't have a bank account or were underbanked last year, the FDIC said. Roughly 10 million or 8.2 percent of American households didn't have bank accounts.

Survey findings were based on a poll of nearly 45,000 households conducted in June 2011 by FDIC and the US Census Bureau.

Experts say the survey's results are an opportunity for banks to find ways to attract more customers.

"Access to an account at a federally insured institution provides households with the opportunity to conduct basic financial transactions, build wealth, save for emergency and long-term security needs, and access credit on fair and affordable terms," said FDIC acting chairman Martin J. Gruenberg.


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Source: (c)2012 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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