Why Turning Post Offices Into Banks Would Be Win-Win

Both America’s lower class and the United States Postal Service are struggling financially. If only there were a way to tackle both problems. It seems that U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren has a proposal to address this situation. She wants to introduce basic banking services at post offices so that Americans could go to their nearby post office to cash checks and obtain small loans.

Why do Americans need easier access to banking services? It may surprise you to learn that a full 25% of Americans do not belong to any type of bank. Often, banks aren’t even accessible to citizens living in poverty; in plenty of poor areas, bank branches don’t even exist.

As a result, poor Americans must instead turn to check cashing businesses to complete their financial transactions. With nowhere else to cash their paychecks or receive small loans, they go to these predatory companies that charge them exorbitant fees and unconscionable interest rates.

Like more and more people are pointing out, it’s actually quite expensive to be poor. Studies find that the poorest Americans wind up spending an average of $2,400 per year on fees at these payday lender businesses. That’s approximately 10% of their total annual income, or as Warren points out, equivalent to these families’ food budgets. Check cashing companies are able to swindle the poor in this manner because they know their clientele has no other way to access the money they need to scrape by.

That’s why Warren hopes the post offices could step in. Surely there is a way to offer bank-less Americans simple financial services at reasonable prices rather than taking them for the little that they have. From a location standpoint, using post offices as stand-in banks makes sense, too. Post offices are everywhere, often at the center of their communities. USPS research uncovered that 59% of post offices are in zip codes with no more than one (but often zero) existing bank branch, so they would prove immediately useful to people without bank access.

For the record, the USPS Inspector General, David C. Williams, is already on board. After crunching the numbers, Williams sees that offering these services would not only save America’s least fortunate households about 90%, but would also net the USPS about $9 billion in additional revenue each year. It appears to be a win-win situation.

With that endorsement, Warren’s plan is more than a pipedream. Besides, comparable models have already proven successful — other countries have introduced similar financial services at their post offices and seen their profits rise significantly.

“The Postal Service is huge – employing more than a half million people – and its history is long and complicated. Any change will take time,” wrote Elizabeth Warren in her recent op-ed. “But this is an issue I am going to spend a lot of time working on – and I hope my colleagues join me. We need innovative ways to created pathways for struggling families to build economic security.”

Inevitably this proposal will face opposition in Congress because shady check cashing businesses have lobbyists and poor people do not, but let’s hope that Warren’s crusade to provide meaningful reform for the lower class through practical solutions wins out in the end.

144 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven4 months ago

thanks for the article.

Elke Hoppenbrouwers

The post in Germany has also a bank, the postbank and it works just as well as any bank. There is also the advantage that you can get money at any post office in the country and many other, cooperating countries in Europe.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm2 years ago

Actually Sarrah you are incorrect. The Post Office manages their money very well and make a profit. Stop getting your information from Fox. If the government would keep its nose oiut of the Post Office businness they would be doing gfreat right now.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

The post office can't manage their own money, and we want them to manage ours? I think NOT.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H.2 years ago

I think this is an idea worth pursuing. I know the post office in general needs a total make over to cut all the fat from their expenses alone.

Ken W.
Ken W.2 years ago

Warren & Sanders / Sanders & Warren 2016 a WIN WIN for America !!!

Kathleen R.
Kathleen R.2 years ago

Petition signed ... thanks for article.

Lynn C.
Lynn C.2 years ago

ty

Gayle F.
Gayle F.2 years ago

This system works really well in New Zealand. Kiwibank has been hugely successful http://www.kiwibank.co.nz/

Donna F.
Donna F.2 years ago

ty