More than 30 million Americans do not have traditional bank accounts. Instead they use check cashers as alternative financial outlets to perform basic financial services. A simple transaction of converting a check to cash carries a high price tag. The average cost to cash a payroll check is 4.11% of the face value. That means a worker would pay an average of $19.66 every week to cash a $478.41 payroll check at a check casher. Credit unions can be part of the solution to high cost check cashers by offering reasonable fee-based check cashing services to members and potential members.
Today one in ten U.S. residents is an immigrant. Over half of those immigrants are from Latin America. Sixty-three percent of immigrants living in the U.S. today are unbanked, creating a huge opportunity for credit unions. An essential product to attract and serve the unbanked immigrant market is an international remittance program. Through such programs as WOCCU’s IRnet services, credit unions can save their members money and buuild strong, loyal relationships with them.
For individuals without formal banking relationships, the ability to make bill payments can be a problem. The unbanked find it difficult to pay electric, gas, telephone, cable, credit card, insurance, water, rent and other recurring bills. Credit unions can use walk-in bill payment services as a means to enhance member relationships and serve the community, as well.
More than 30 million Americans today use check cashers to conduct their primary financial transactions. Most of these same consumers are using money orders to pay their monthly obligations. To entice these users into their stores, check cashers and other alternative service providers offer cheap money orders, often as low as 50 cents each.
Prepaid debit cards are used in lieu of bank accounts and traditional credit cards by many consumers including the unbanked, immigrants, students, and those with credit or checking blemishes. These prepaid accounts are designed to work like a debit card with both ATM and point of sale accessibility. Prepaid cards provide a way for credit unions to safely offer unbanked and under-banked consumers with access to a transaction product that is less likely to be overdrawn or mismanaged than a traditional checking account.
A checking account is often used as a measure of a person’s primary financial institution. A fresh start or 2nd chance checking product allows those individuals who have had past checking blemishes to get back into mainstream banking. Some limitations or restrictions are often incorporated into the product to reduce chances that the person will mismanage the account. A 2nd chance account can help a credit union grow membership and increase services used per member.
The Internal Revenue Service Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Site program offers free tax help to taxpayers who qualify, generally those with incomes of $49,000 or less. Through participation in the VITA program, credit unions help lower-income consumers keep more of their tax credits and refunds in their own pockets rather than paying higher cost tax filers. Credit unions can help their communities and help connect more families to the benefits of credit union membership.