Access to Mainstream Financial Services

Mainstream financial services refers to the features such as checking and savings accounts offered by traditional banks. Many low-income households also rely on alternative financial services provided by check cashing stores, payday lenders, rent-to-own stores and paid tax preparers. Households are considered “unbanked” if they do not have a checking or savings account; "underbanked" households may have a traditional bank account but also rely on alternative financial services for some transactions. The HCI Access to Mainstream Financial Services indicator uses the Bank On tool created by the Corporation for Enterprise Development’s (CFED) to measure the percent of a neighborhood's un- and underbanked households. Un- and underbanked households are more likely than fully banked households to have lower incomes and be unemployed. The percent of un- or underbanked households within a community has been associated with poor mental health (anxiety, stress) and physical health. Although included under the Economic Health domain, access to mainstream financial services also has strong links to the employment opportunities, education, and neighborhood characteristics domains. This indicator’s value is considered an “inverse” measure, i.e., a higher value is a negative versus a positive outcome. CFED’s Bank On tool uses data from the FDIC and the U.S. Census to estimate unbanked and underbanked households at a variety of geographic levels. (See for more information).

Key Citations:

  1. Rhine, S. and Greene, W. (2012). Factors That Contribute to Becoming Unbanked. The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 47.1, 27-45.
  2. Klawitter, M. and Fletschner, G. (2006). Banked or Unbanked? Individual and family access to savings and checking accounts. Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs.
  3. Kutty, Nadinee K. (2008). Using the Making Connections Survey Data to Analyze Housing Mobility and Child Outcomes among Low-Income Families. Report submitted to the Center for Housing Policy.
  4. 2011 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households. (2012).
  5. Additional Resources:
    FDIC Research and Publications