The number of American households without a bank account fell significantly in 2015, a newly released survey found.
Only 7% of U.S. households did not have a bank account in 2015, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households released Oct. 20. That is a decrease from 7.7% in 2013 and 8.2% in 2011, according to a FDIC news release. The FDIC survey began in 2009 and it is conducted every other year in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau.
“Developing a relationship with a bank helps consumers build assets and create wealth, makes them less susceptible to discriminatory or predatory lending practices, and can provide a financial safety net against unforeseen circumstances,” FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg said in the release. “The decline in the share of households who do not have a banking relationship is a positive development, and the FDIC will continue working to help ensure households have access to safe, secure, and affordable banking services.”
Improving conditions during the two years through the 2015 survey account for part of the drop in the unbanked rate, but the rate fell greater than expected and the decline was broad based, according to the release. For example, the unbanked rate for black households dropped from 20.6% in 2013 to 18.2% in 2015, and for Hispanic households it fell from 17.9% to 16.2%, the release said. Households with very low incomes and households headed by individuals without any college education also saw their unbanked rates drop significantly, the survey found.
Not all demographic groups saw decreases, however. Unbanked rates for Asian households increased during the two-year period from 2.2% to 4%, according to the release.
The survey measures the share of households that are unbanked, meaning no one in the household has a bank account. It also measures underbanked households, meaning they have a bank account but look outside the banking system to meet transaction or credit needs. Overall, 27% of U.S. households were unbanked or underbanked in 2015, the release said.
According to the release, other key survey findings include:
• Use of online and mobile banking to access accounts increased substantially from 2013 to 2015. Some 36.9% reported online banking as their primary method for accessing a bank account compared with 28.2% relying on bank tellers. However, the use of tellers remains popular among segments of the population with higher unbanked and underbanked rates, including lower-income households, less-educated households, older households, and households in rural areas.
• Use of smartphones to engage in banking activities continues to grow. Some 9.5% of households reported relying on mobile banking as their primary method for accessing a bank account, up sharply from 5.7% in 2013.
• Overall, 56.3% of households saved, meaning they set aside money in the previous 12 months that could be used for unexpected expenses or emergencies, even if the funds were later spent.
• Regarding consumer credit use, such as credit cards, personal loans and personal lines of credit, the survey reveals that 63.8% of households held credit only from bank sources, 4.1% held credit only from non-bank sources, 4% held credit from both bank and non-bank sources, and 28% had no credit from any source.
• Between 2013 and 2015, the proportion of households using prepaid card in the previous 12 months increased from 7.9% to 9.8%. Consistent with results from the 2013 survey, prepaid card use in 2015 was higher among lower-income households, less-educated households, younger households, black households and working-age disabled households.
• The majority of unbanked households said they think that banks have no interest in serving households like theirs, and a significant share of unbanked households said they do not trust banks.
For additional survey findings, visit economicinclusion.gov. Data also is available for metropolitan areas and states.