Rate of unbanked households fell nationally to 4.5% in latest FDIC survey

The national rate of households that lacked a bank or credit union account fell 0.9 percentage points to 4.5%, or 5.9 million households, from 2019 to 2021 – the lowest unbanked rate since the 2009 launch of the biennial National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) said Tuesday.

The 2019-2021 drop in the national unbanked household rate corresponded to an increase of approximately 1.2 million banked households, raising the rate of banked households to nearly 96% last year, the agency reported. Between 2011 – when the unbanked rate was at its highest level since the survey began – and 2021, the unbanked rate fell 3.7 percentage points, corresponding to an increase of approximately 5 million banked households, it said.

“Unbanked” for purposes of the survey means no one in the household had a checking or savings account at a bank or credit union, the agency said.

In other findings, the agency said, 14.1% of households, or 18.7 million, were underbanked in 2021, meaning they had a bank or credit union account and used nonbank financial products – money orders, check cashing, or international remittances (i.e., nonbank transactions); and nonbank financial services – rent-to-own services or payday, pawn shop, tax refund anticipation, or auto title loans (i.e., nonbank credit).

Regarding primary methods of bank account access, among banked households:

  • Use of mobile banking increased sharply (from 15.1% in 2017 to 34.0% in 2019, to 43.5% in 2021) and remained the most prevalent primary method of account access.
  • Use of a bank teller declined considerably (from 24.8 percent in 2017 to 21.0% in 2019, to 14.9% in 2021) but remained prevalent among certain segments of the population, including lower-income households, less-educated households, older households, and households that did not live in a metropolitan area.

… and among underbanked households:

  • Use of mobile banking was higher among underbanked households (48.8 percent) than among fully banked households (42.5 percent).
  • Use of online banking as the primary method of account access was much lower among underbanked households (11.6%) than among fully banked households (23.8%).
  • Similar proportions of underbanked households (15.0%) and fully banked households (14.9%) used a bank teller as the primary method of account access.

The survey is on the agenda for Thursday’s public meeting of the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion.

Release: Despite COVID-19 Pandemic, Record 96% of U.S. Households Were Banked in 2021

2019 survey analysis

RR: FDIC advisory panels to meet this month on state-chartered institution regulation, community banking, economic inclusion (Oct. 11, 2022)