Despite the city of New York being recognized as the banking capital of the world, 12 percent of all households in the city still do not have a bank account. That’s 4 percentage points above the national average, according to recent data by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Though there has been considerable effort to lessen the level of distrust between poorer residents of the city and area banking institutions, little progress has been made.
On his attempts to educate Lower East Side residents on their finances, Michael Callaghan, executive director of Nazareth Housing, told the New York Times, “We’ve seen little change in the population we’ve served in the last 20 years.”
Thousands of residents, like many across the nation, still feel more comfortable hiding their savings in closets, pillows, socks and brown paper lunch bags. When it comes to cash their checks or pay their bills, these non-banking workers turn to check-cashers and post offices.
Residents in lower-income areas will walk right past a bank and think to themselves, “Eh, I trust my mattress more.”
To many patrons of the banking system, this line of thinking is a direct result of ignorance. But for the sake of playing devil’s advocate, with the economy in such disarray is it really ignorant to distrust banks? If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, aren’t your chances of having a negative balance heightened? As high as check-cashing fees are, what’s worse: That or an overdraft fee?
Not to mention bill collectors can now forcibly seize funds from savings and checking accounts. If you’re saddled with a lot of debt that you’re unable to pay, do you really want to place your earnings in a checking account knowing that it could be taken away?
Unless banks remove miscellaneous fees, offer real overdraft protection and allow customers to accrue some real interest on their accounts, aren't the poor within their right to still harbor reservations about the banking system?
Disclaimer: Don’t let this entry fool you. Each reader is more than welcome to deposit money into my checking account.
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Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.