The Unbanked MacroMonitor Marketing Report Vol. III, No. 3 September 1997

Some 14 million households in the United States have no checking relationship with a financial institution. In an era in which personal computer (PC) banking, credit cards, and mutual funds appear ubiquitous, the fact that one in eight households doesn't have as basic a transaction product as a checking account should give one pause. Who are these "Unbanked"? What would encourage them to participate in the financial services marketplace?

This MacroMonitor report compares the Unbanked with households in the lowest socioeconomic stratum (SES). Although these two populations share many characteristics, the study also reveals differences, particularly with regard to their financial attitudes and interest in alternative forms of financial access.
  • Both Unbanked and lowest-SES households are less likely than other households to be married (or cohabiting), but the Unbanked are more likely to be single, whereas low SES are more likely to be widowed.
  • The Unbanked are significantly less likely than the lowest SES to have any credit or debit cards. Use of ATMs is also significantly lower among the Unbanked.
  • The Unbanked are more likely than low-SES households to worry about the safety of their deposits in banks and less likely to use a bank to borrow money. Moreover, they have the highest level of resentment toward financial institutions, considering interactions with them to be negative and preferring not to speak to institutional personnel.
The profile of the Unbanked indicates enough differences from the lowest SES to suggest to financial institutions that targeting the Unbanked as potential customers warrants a different marketing tack.

Who Are the Unbanked?