If you're seriously considering foregoing a bank account altogether, you may find yourself increasingly isolated from most products and services.
Let's say you already have a checking or savings account. Let's also say you're sick of the fees. You're over the bad customer service. You hate having to spend money every time you want access to your own funds from an ATM. With all the associated costs and annoyances, why do we even bother having bank accounts? Do you really need the hassle?
Yes. Not the answer you wanted, perhaps. But given the requirements of everything from rent to utilities to entertainment, almost all financial transactions require you to have a checking account, or at least a card connected to your money. What you really dislike isn't the account itself — it's the hassle.
In 2012, more than 25% of Americans got by without a bank account. That number had already plunged by 2019, when close to 5% Americans did not have a checking account or savings account. Changes in technology required more people to have access to their funds digitally to make purchases and pay bills online. The pandemic has exaggerated this trend.
Banking may not always seem like the most exciting industry, but it exists for a reason. If you're seriously considering foregoing a bank account altogether, you may find yourself increasingly isolated from most products and services.
What are your alternatives to a bank account?
As people have joked since before the gold rush, you can always keep your money in your mattress. But let's be honest: If you're storing your money at home, you aren't literally putting it in your box spring. Even in your own home, you want your money to be kept somewhere safe.
There are few places safer to keep your money than a bank or credit union. Both are governed by strict guidelines and are insured against financial collapse.
Depending on your financial needs, you may have some options. If you work a non-traditional job with long hours and no weekdays off, you may be dependent on other financial options, rather than try to visit a financial institution during its office hours. While moving your money through a big box store just to be able to access your money on weekends and holidays may be convenient, but depositing a check into an account you can manage and control may not be.
And at big-box stores, much like many online-only banks (aka neobanks), the company holding your money is a third-party entity that may or may not align with your best interests. If you rely on getting a money card reloaded when you get paid, you'll wish your cash was in your mattress if anything happens to your card. If you choose to utilize a prepaid card to shop and spend, you might find yourself struggling if those cards are lost or stolen. You shouldn't have to sacrifice the security of your money for the convenience of being able to cash a check.
The world is ready for you to have a bank account
That drop-off in Americans without a bank account we mentioned earlier didn’t happen because 20% of the country just realized that banks are super cool and life-changing. It's because we live in a world that demands we be digitally connected to our money.
From direct deposit of your income, to automatic bill pay, to shopping online, we are all finding that the world wants us to manage our money electronically. Even a basic bank account comes with online access and mobile banking, so you can track your money and view your statements. You may not use the online bill pay feature, but you can set up direct debit from your deposit account to your cell phone company or easily transfer money to your digital wallet.
It's easier than ever to live in a world where you don't readily have cash on hand. Businesses of all kinds are utilizing cashless payment systems, whether that’s Apple Pay, PayPal, Google Pay, or tap-to-pay with your debit card. This makes the bookkeeping end of money easy and makes payment convenient for you.
But are you ready to have a bank account?
The ideal bank account is one that is tailored to your needs. Do you need access to your cash away from your residence? Do you need to be able to deposit checks without going to a branch? Do you need to be able to pay your credit card or your electric bill from your monthly paycheck? Do you want to be saving a little here and there into an emergency fund?
Stashing cash away at home doesn't help you interact with these new financial systems, nor does it do anything to help you improve your financial situation. Your deposit account does more than keep your money safe: It helps build up your personal finance profile and proves your financial responsibility. Without establishing a track record of your personal finance history, you’ll struggle to develop a good credit score.
Even if you don't have any plans to borrow money and prefer to pay cash when possible, your credit score is something you’ll need to earn better rates on your car insurance, qualify for some job opportunities, and perhaps, one day, own your own home. Many of these benefits begin and flow from your bank accounts and the way you use them.
Features like overdraft protection and direct deposit allow you to have your money flow into your account and provide a buffer when you need it. Keeping your cash in your house does not provide you that cushion.
Is it the account you dislike or the hassle?
Truth is, if it's the hassle you despise most, then there are easy ways to solve that problem. For starters, get rid of any deposit account that charges you a monthly fee just to have the account. The best checking account you can find is one that allows you to deposit your money and withdraw your money without excessive fees.
A free checking account that also provides a strong network of ATMs, as many credit unions do, or that refunds you the ATM fees, like many community banks do, provide you with the flexibility you want during those non-traditional hours.
As you can see, there are some definite benefits to going with a bank account instead of a crafty hiding spot for your cash. But what about those questionable big banks and their fees that you hate so much? Of course, there is a better option.
Find a better bank or credit union and make the switch. You don't have to bank with the megabanks who keep making headlines with their questionable financial practices and new and higher fees. Now that's a hassle!
The community banks and credit unions that offer Kasasa accounts eliminate those monthly maintenance fees. They also refund ATM fees and offer the kind of customer service you expect from local businesses. So before you swear off banks entirely, consider if what you actually need is a better bank.