A Staggering Number of New Yorkers Don’t Have Bank Accounts or Proper Access to Banks

Bank of America logo. Photo: Mike Mozart/Flickr Creative Commons
Bank of America logo. Photo: Mike Mozart/Flickr Creative Commons

An estimated 825,000 New Yorkers don’t currently have open checking accounts, while low-income, heavily minority neighborhoods like Mott Haven in the Bronx continue to be among the most bank-deprived and underserved communities in the nation, according to a new report issued by the New York City Comptroller’s Office. 

The report, which is called “Take It to the Bank,” doubles as a financial-literacy initiative, as it combines research concerning things like neighborhood bank-concentration with handy facts about checking accounts, interest, and how to read the garbled fine print of various account disclosure statements.

“Take It to the Bank” concludes that the nearly one million NYC residents who have no bank account make the city one of the worst places in terms of financial stability and literacy, even though New York is one of the foremost financial hubs worldwide.

New York’s un-banked population “amounts to 13 percent of all City households, well above the national rate of 7.7 percent,” the report states. “In some neighborhoods like Mott Haven and Melrose in the Bronx, over half of all residents are classified as ‘unbanked.'”

But the report stops short of a damning proclamation of the city’s unequal banking distribution, by issuing very handy insights into how financial shortfalls can be averted. Some of these tips, which are buffeted by further statistics, intend to show just how easy it is to open a banking account, and where the best banks are for doing so:

Screen shot of tips from "Take it to the Bank." Photo: comptroller.nyc.gov
Screen shot of tips from “Take It to the Bank.” Photo: comptroller.nyc.gov

Furthermore, the report ranks banks on a scale of their respective levels of affordability. Seventy-four New York banking institutions are listed, so the reader can asses things like the “amount of cash required to open and use each bank account for one year,” in addition to tips on avoiding pesky banking fees and the like.

As free checking accounts are a less typical bonus of banking these days, establishing a solid line of credit and a savings account worthy of retirement is not an easy endeavor. But “Take It to the Bank” provides transparency into the elusive process for New Yorkers of all stripes, as it supplies information on banks that accept the city’s new IDNYC card, which is a huge perk for tons of people, including undocumented immigrants across the five boroughs.


  1. Yes, a staggering number of New Yorkers lack do not have checking accounts especially if they are poor or undocumented. . Over these past weeks as I have been working on a new program to address this need I am learning that there is a vast invisible banking system within immigrant communities. Through disciplined savings in small groups and mutual support they are saving ahead for rent when they lose a job, purchasing a food cart, paying tuition or sending money to relatives back home. It works this way. Ten or so trusted friends join together. They put $100 (or another amount) in a pot and each in turn receives a $1,000 payout every ten weeks. Since they are committed to the group they make sure they don’t spend this money. What is this saving and support system was introduced to non-immigrants? We plan to find out. See intheirownhands.com Jeff


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