The consequences of not having access to mainstream financial services can be severe. Fim, the "unbanked" face high costs for basic financial servies. For example, a 2000 Treasury [U.S. Treasury Department] study found that a worker eaming $12,000 a year would pay approximately $250 annually just to cash payroll checks at a check cashing outlet, in addition to fees for money orders, wire transfers, bill payments, and other common transactions. Regular payments with low credit risk that could be directly deposited into bank accounts, with significantly lower payment systems costs, form the bulk of checks cashed at these check cashing outlets: nearly 80 percent of checks cashed at check cashing outlets are regular payrool check, and another 16 percent are govemment benefit checks. The costs of these basic financial transactions can undermine public initiatives to move families from welfare to work, as former welfare recipients often lack access to the banking system, and pay high fees to cash their checks. High cost financial services can also diminish the effectiveness of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a tax incentive that rewards work and helps bring families out of poverty. One survey found that 44 percent of a sample of EITC recipients in inner-city Chicago used a check cashing service to cash their government refund check. EITC recipients, lacking savings or access to other forms of short-term credit, are also likely to use high-cost refund anticipation loans.
Barr, Michael S. "Banking for the Unbanked." Law Quad. Notes 45, no. 2 (2002): 60-3. (Essay based on testimony delivered before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs in May 2002.)