In 2011, the FDIC launched a one-year Model Safe Accounts Pilot. The pilot was a case study designed to evaluate the feasibility of financial institutions offering safe and low-cost transactional and savings accounts that are responsive to the needs of underserved consumers. Access to mainstream financial services at an insured institution can provide consumers with a safe place to save, conduct basic financial transactions, build a credit history and access credit on favorable terms, and achieve financial security. This pilot reflects the FDIC's commitment to ensuring that all U.S. households have access to safe and affordable banking services.
The nine financial institutions that participated in the pilot offered electronic deposit accounts that followed the FDIC Model Safe Accounts Template. The Template describes electronic, card-based accounts that limit acquisition and maintenance costs. Transaction accounts are checkless, allowing withdrawals only through automated teller machines, point-of-sale terminals, automated clearinghouse preauthorizations, and other automated means. There are no overdraft or non-sufficient funds fees associated with the transaction accounts. Safe Accounts are FDIC-insured and subject to applicable consumer protection laws, regulations, and guidance.
- More than 3,500 Safe Accounts were opened during the one-year pilot: 662 transaction accounts and 2,883 savings accounts
- Account retention: 81 percent of transaction accounts and 95 percent of savings accounts remained open at the end of the pilot
- Most of the pilot institutions reported that the cost of offering Safe Accounts were roughly the same if not lower because the pilot accounts do not have paper check-related costs. Pilot institutions reported a relatively low risk of account overdrafts and fraudulent behavior
- Many different business models emerged, suggesting that the FDIC Model Safe Accounts Template is flexible enough to be used in a variety of circumstances
- Many pilot institutions found that it was important to train their tellers and customer service representatives to offer Safe Accounts and provide basic financial education
- Many institutions said they found it challenging to effectively market and advertise the Safe Accounts
- Several banks spoke about the challenge of reaching potential customers in new markets where nonbank financial services providers compete for customers