Trying to Rebuild Their Image, Big Banks Woo Low-Income Customers

What's Hot

Do This or Your iPhone Bill May SkyrocketSave

23 Upgrades Under $50 to Make Your House Look AwesomeAround The House

Trump Worth $10 Billion Less Than If He’d Simply Invested in Index FundsBusiness

11 Places in the World Where You Can Afford to Retire in StyleMore

What You Need to Know for 2017 Obamacare EnrollmentFamily

8 Things Rich People Buy That Make Them Look DumbAround The House

32 of the Highest-Paid American SpeakersMake

Amazon Prime No Longer Pledges Free 2-Day Shipping on All ItemsMore

More Caffeine Means Less Dementia for WomenFamily

9 Tips to Ensure You’ll Have Enough to RetireFamily

5 DIY Ways to Make Your Car Smell GreatCars

30 Awesome Things to Do in RetirementCollege

5 Spots Where Retirees Can Live for Less Than $40,000Real Estate

10 Ways to Pull Together the Down Payment for a HomeCredit & Debt

10 Ways to Reduce Your Homeowner’s Insurance RatesFamily

50 Ways to Make a Fast $50 (or Lots More)Grow

Lenders are trying to reach the millions of Americans who are unbanked.

If you’re low-income, unbanked or have a troubled financial history, big banks want you as their customer.

You read that correctly. According to The New York Times, an increasing number of big lenders are offering low-fee banking services to poor Americans.

The products, including bare-bones bank accounts and prepaid debit cards, are hardly big moneymakers — in some cases, the banks barely break even.

But for the banks working to overhaul their public images in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the products offer a different and potentially far bigger payout: good will from regulators and a chance to woo more customers who might just become profitable in the long run.

JPMorgan Chase is offering a $4.95-per-month prepaid card that has many features of a traditional bank account.

For that $4.95, you can open a SafeBalance account at Bank of America, which allows customers to make direct deposits and pay bills online but not write checks (so no overdraft fees), the Times said.

And American Express offers Bluebird, a checking account/debit card alternative sold at Walmart, which includes banking features and the ability to write checks.

If big banks are trying to get new business, they’re looking in the right place. About 70 million Americans do not have a bank account or other financial services available to them, The Atlantic said. Sadly, unbanked families spend about 10 percent of their money trying to replace banking services. According to The Atlantic:

Instead of direct deposit, many rely on physical pay stubs. Instead of checking accounts, they have to drive to check-cashing services, like Pay-O-Matic. Instead of automatic payments, they drive again across the suburbs to pay utility bills in person. In lieu of a credit history that qualifies them for bank loans, they have a history of cash that is disqualifying. Instead of low-interest loans, they rely on payday lenders whose services can ultimately cost three or four times the original loan.

So far, regulators have praised the banks’ efforts to entice poor Americans into the banking system. The Times story includes this amazing quote: “’I think what you have done is remarkable for the country,’ Martin Eakes, chief executive of the Center for Responsible Lending, told an executive at Bank of America, referring to its new account.”

Are you surprised that big banks are seeking customers among low-income Americans? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

I know... every site you visit wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. But our news and advice is actually worth reading! For 25 years, I've been making people richer without making their eyes glaze over. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!


Read Next: How Does Debt Affect Survivors After a Loved One’s Death?

Check Out Our Hottest Deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 1,638 more deals!