December 21, 2010 — Issue Brief

Over 17 million Americans are unbanked, relying on alternative, and often costly, financial services providers. Policymakers, consumer advocates and the banking industry are increasingly working to move people into the financial mainstream by promoting basic banking accounts. Prepaid cards have also been promoted as safe alternative transaction account. Indeed, the bank account and prepaid models are converging, as prepaid features come to resemble those of traditional bank accounts, and banks offer “checkless checking” with a structure (and sometime fees) that mimic prepaid cards.