The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recently released its 2021 Annual Survey of unbanked and underbanked households. The survey shows an estimated 4.5% of U.S. households (approximately 5.9 million) were “unbanked” in 2021, meaning that no one in the household had a checking or savings account at a bank or credit union.
This means that the unbanked rate in 2021—4.5%—was the lowest since the survey began in 2009. Between 2019 and 2021, the unbanked rate fell 0.9 percentage points. This corresponds to an increase of approximately 1.2 million banked households.
The reasons for this decrease in numbers is not discussed in the survey, but is likely to be the result of several factors. These include access to credit-building loans that, over time, allow individuals and families to build credit profiles that serve them well.
Section 10 of the survey deals specifically with Bank and Non-Bank Credit. It notes that 2.8 percent of households had a nonbank personal loan in 2021. This is a broad definition of “a personal loan or line of credit from a company other than a bank”. It includes the traditional installment loans that so many individuals and families rely on.
The survey further notes that unbanked rates in 2021 varied considerably across the U.S. population. For example, unbanked rates were higher among lower-income households, less-educated households, Black households, Hispanic households, working-age households with a disability, and single-mother households.
NILA believes that the term unbanked tends to be viewed needlessly as a pejorative, while in our experience, many borrowers prefer to have their credit needs met by traditional installment lenders rather than depository institutions.
The survey was conducted in June 2021, in partnership with the US Census Bureau and collected responses from more than 30,000 households
To review the survey and download a PDF version, visit:
“National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households”