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Analysis

How America Banks: Household Use of Banking and Financial Services

Last Updated: December 17, 2021

The FDIC Survey of Household Use of Banking and Financial Services supports the FDIC’s mission of maintaining public confidence in the U.S. financial system. Conducted biennially since 2009 partly in response to a statutory mandate, the survey is administered in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau and collects information on bank account ownership, use of prepaid cards and nonbank financial transaction services, and use of bank and nonbank credit by U.S. households.

How America Banks: 2019 Survey Results

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Key Findings from How America Banks: Household Use of Banking and Financial Services
2019 FDIC Survey

  • An estimated 5.4 percent of U.S. households (approximately 7.1 million) were “unbanked” in 2019, meaning that no one in the household had a checking or savings account at a bank or credit union (i.e., bank). Conversely, 94.6 percent of U.S. households (approximately 124.2 million) were “banked” in 2019, meaning that at least one member of the household had a checking or savings account.
  • The proportion of U.S. households that were unbanked (i.e., the unbanked rate) in 2019—5.4 percent—was the lowest since the survey began in 2009. Between 2017 and 2019, the unbanked rate fell by 1.1 percentage points, corresponding to an increase of approximately 1.5 million banked households.
    • About half of the decline in the unbanked rate between 2017 and 2019 was associated with improvements in the socioeconomic circumstances of U.S. households over this period.
  • Between 2011, when the unbanked rate peaked at 8.2 percent, and 2019, the unbanked rate fell by 2.8 percentage points, corresponding to an increase of approximately 3.7 million banked households.
    • About two-thirds of the decline in the unbanked rate between 2011 and 2019 was associated with improvements in the socioeconomic circumstances of U.S. households over this period.
  • “Don’t have enough money to meet minimum balance requirements” was cited by 29.0 percent of unbanked households as the main reason for not having an account—the most cited main reason.
    • “Don’t trust banks” was cited by 16.1 percent of unbanked households as the main reason for not having an account—the second-most cited main reason.
  • Among banked households:
    • Use of mobile banking as a primary method of account access continued to increase sharply (from 9.5 percent in 2015 and 15.6 percent in 2017 to 34.0 percent in 2019), overtaking online banking as the most prevalent primary method.
    • Use of online banking as a primary method of account access decreased substantially but remained prevalent (dropping from 36.9 percent in 2015 and 36.0 percent in 2017 to 22.8 percent in 2019).
    • Use of bank tellers as a primary method of account access continued to decline modestly but remained prevalent (dropping from 28.2 percent in 2015 and 24.3 percent in 2017 to 21.0 percent in 2019).
  • In 2019, 83.0 percent of banked households spoke with a teller or other employee in person at a bank branch (i.e., visited a bank branch), down slightly from 86.0 percent in 2017.
    • Between 2017 and 2019, the share of banked households visiting a branch ten or more times declined from 35.4 percent to 28.4 percent, whereas the share of banked households visiting a branch one to four times increased from 30.8 percent to 36.3 percent.
    • Branch visits were prevalent even among banked households that used online or mobile banking as their primary method of account access. For example, in 2019, 79.9 percent of banked households that used mobile banking as their primary method visited a branch and 18.8 percent visited ten or more times.
  • Almost all banked households were satisfied with their primary bank and thought that fees were clearly communicated: 97.3 percent were very or somewhat satisfied with their primary bank, and 92.1 percent thought their bank communicated account fees very or somewhat clearly.
  • In 2019, 8.5 percent of U.S. households used general purpose reloadable prepaid cards, down from 9.7 percent in 2017 and 10.2 percent in 2015. Prepaid card use continued to be more prevalent among unbanked households than among banked households.
  • As in previous years, the 2019 survey asked all households about use of the following nonbank financial transaction services: money orders, check cashing, and remittances sent abroad. In addition, the 2019 survey included new questions about two other types of nonbank financial transaction services: bill payment services (such as are offered by Western Union and MoneyGram) and use of a website or app to send or receive money inside the United States (examples are PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App). The latter service is known as a peer-to-peer or person-to-person (P2P) payment service.
    • In 2019, 11.9 percent of households used money orders, 5.5 percent used check cashing, 4.9 percent used bill payment services, 5.5 percent used international remittances, and 31.1 percent used P2P payment services.
    • Patterns of use for bill payment services were similar to the patterns for money orders and check cashing. Younger households, less-educated households, and Black, Hispanic, and American Indian or Alaska Native households were more likely to use these three transaction services, as were lower-income households and households with volatile income.
    • The characteristics of households that made P2P payments were substantially different from the characteristics of households that used the other nonbank transaction services. Use of P2P payment services was higher among households with income of $75,000 or more, households with a college degree, younger and middle-aged households, and working-age nondisabled households.
    • The 2019 survey included new questions on the frequency of use of nonbank transaction services other than P2P payment services. The population segments that more commonly used a nonbank transaction service (at all) also tended to use that service more frequently.
  • The share of households that used bank credit (i.e., a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover credit card or a personal loan or line of credit from a bank) increased from 67.9 percent in 2015 to 72.5 percent in 2019. The share of households that used nonbank credit (i.e., a rent-to-own service or a payday, auto title, pawn shop, or tax refund anticipation loan) declined from 8.1 percent in 2015 and 7.5 percent in 2017 to 4.8 percent in 2019.
    • The increase in bank credit use and the decline in nonbank credit use occurred broadly across different segments of the population.
    • Lower-income households, less-educated households, Black households, Hispanic households, American Indian or Alaska Native households, and working-age disabled households were less likely to use bank credit. Differences by race and ethnicity were large and were present at all income levels.