A new report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) indicates that about 68 million Americans, or more than 25 percent of all households, have no checking or savings account. In 2012, these households spent a total of $89 billion on interest and fees for non-bank financial services, including payday loans and check cashing. This amounts to an average $2,412 per household, or roughly 10 percent of its annual income.
In the same report, the OIG looked at the possibility of the USPS offering basic banking services -- such as bill paying, check cashing, and small loans. The USPS could partner with banks to offer basic banking services to underserved Americans who may lack banks or bank branches in their neighborhoods. This system could, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) believes, help U.S. families avoid high interest rates and "tricks and traps" hidden within loans' fine print.
Warren also writes that, by providing affordable financial services, the USPS could strengthen its own financial footing. Similar steps have been taken by postal services in other countries, and they have seen earnings increase. Such a change will take time, Warren writes, calling on her colleagues to join her in exploring the idea.