2024 Digital Financial Inclusion Statistics Report
Fintech experts at Tipalti share their insights on the unbanked population rates in America and how fintech innovations contribute to improving financial inclusion.
As many will know, having access to financial services from banks and credit unions can be crucial to achieving financial stability. Although most adults have a bank account and can obtain credit in the US, some still don’t have access to financial services, especially those among particular demographics.
In this article, we take a closer look at financial inclusion, covering financial inclusion statistics, the definition, key benefits, and financial inclusion technology you can count on for embracing digital technology and inclusive practices.
Unbanked Rate by Demographics
In 2022, 6% of adults were ‘unbanked,’ meaning that they do not have access to traditional banking services, such as savings or checking accounts. Those without bank accounts often rely on more expensive and less secure alternative financial services like check cashing and payday loans. This remains unchanged from 2021.
Unbanked Rate by Family Income
Research suggests that unbanked rates are particularly high among adults from low-income backgrounds. Last year, up to 17% of adults with an annual income of less than $25,000 were unbanked. This is significantly higher when compared to the 1% of adults with an income of between $50,000 and $99,999.
|Less than $25,000
|$100,000 or more
Unbanked Rate by Age
Young adults have the highest unbanked rate, with 10% of people within this age group lacking access to traditional banking services. 8% of individuals aged 30 to 44 also have a relatively high unbanked rate, while those aged 60+ have the highest level of bank account ownership.
Unbanked Rate by Race
In 2022, unbanked rates were higher among Black (13%) and Hispanic (10%) adults. Interestingly, although traditional payment and credit methods were lower among these ethnicities, they tended to use relatively new financial services more, such as cryptocurrency for transactions and Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL).
Unbanked Rate by Disability Status
Regarding disability status, unbanked rates tended to be higher among those with a disability. In fact, adults with disabilities (10%) are twice as likely not to have access to traditional banking services compared to adults without a disability (5%).
Nonbank Check Cashing and Money Orders
According to statistics, 12% of adults used nonbank check cashing or money orders in 2022. Though this remains unchanged in the last couple of years, there has been a 3% decrease from 2019.
Despite both banked and unbanked adults using nonbank providers to conduct financial transactions, there was a much higher rate among unbanked adults.
While only 12% of banked adults used a nonbank money order or check cashing service, 31% of unbanked adults also did the same. The use of nonbank money orders and check cashing has fallen by 16% among unbanked adults since 2019.
Using data from the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2022, we analyzed the Banking and Credit section statistics, particularly looking at bank account ownership, the unbanked rates among different demographic groups, and the use of nonbank check cashing and money orders among banked and unbanked adults. We specifically looked at Table 16 and Figure 22.
What is Digital Financial Inclusion?
Digital financial inclusion refers to the process of ensuring those in underserved or financially marginalized communities (unbanked populations) have access to affordable financial services and products (through digital means). The idea is rooted in the concept that everyone should have access to financial services, regardless of economic status, location, or access to a traditional banking infrastructure.
These services can include (but are not limited to):
Financial inclusion is particularly popular in struggling economies and developing countries (like parts of Asia and Africa).
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic increased global digital adoption, as people sought alternative ways to address daily needs without human contact. Results from the latest Global Findex survey—conducted in 2021 in 123 countries with more than 125,000 respondents, show that the use of digital payments has grown exponentially, as necessity is the master of invention. The digital divide continues to shrink, as telecommunications rise.
So, what is digital financial inclusion? Key components include:
Digital access involves making financial services available through digital channels, like the Internet, mobile phones, and other electronic devices. This allows people to access their accounts, conduct transactions, and easily manage their money, from anywhere in the world.
Alongside digital access, digital literacy and financial education are critical to empowering individuals to make more informed decisions. That includes how to take full advantage of digital financial services (DFS).
While bank access is limited to people in remote and underserved areas, 85% of Americans use smartphones. This enables another form of digital finance known as mobile banking (a.k.a. mobile money). Mobile banking is a fundamental aspect of digital financial inclusion, enabling people to perform tasks like:
- Money transfers
- Banking operations
- Paying bills
- Access to other banking services
The mobile ecosystem has also given rise to digital wallets, allowing people from different backgrounds all over the world to manage money through their phones.
Digital financial inclusion promotes the use of digital payment methods, such as prepaid cards, mobile wallets, and digital currencies to facilitate efficient and secure transactions. Fostering a digital economy allows financial service providers to assist the poor and offer savings accounts to those excluded from traditional banking.
Digital financial inclusion also extends to microfinance institutions that offer small loans. Digital platforms provide a modern business model that makes it easier to disburse and collect small loans.
Many governments and central banks (as well as the World Bank) provide connectivity and inclusion through regulatory and policy measures. These initiatives can include promoting digital ID solutions, identifying regulators and policymakers, creating a supportive regulatory environment, and fostering competition in the financial sector.
The evolution of fintech companies has helped play a significant role in the expansion of digital inclusion. Fintechs develop creative solutions that cater to the unbanked and underserved populations.
Benefits of Digital Financial Inclusion
When it comes to services for digital financial inclusion, there are a multitude of benefits. Consider these top advantages:
- Economic Growth: Financial inclusion contributes to economic growth by encouraging entrepreneurship, fostering financial stability, and enhancing productivity.
- Financial Empowerment: Individuals are empowered to save, invest, manage, and protect their assets, subsequently improving financial well-being.
- Reduced Financial Exclusion: Digital services help address financial exclusion by reaching businesses and people in remote or underserved areas, as well as those who cannot access traditional banks or payment systems. This includes developing economies like Bangladesh or Ghana, where money accounts have been hard to come by.
- Enhanced Security: Digital transactions often come with enhanced cybersecurity that exceeds formal financial services. This works to reduce the risk of theft, money laundering, and fraud. This is especially the case for those in cash-based economies.
- Cost Efficiency: Financial inclusion reduces the costs associated with transactions, like traditional banking fees.
- Data-Driven Insights: DFS generates valuable data that can be used to tailor financial products and services to the specific needs of underserved populations.
Digital financial inclusion is an important aspect of global efforts to reduce poverty, enhance economies, and achieve broader social goals. Organizations like the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), a group of over 30 leading development organizations, work tirelessly to advance the lives of poor people, especially through financial inclusion.
By leveraging digital technologies and payment services, financial inclusion can bridge the financial divide and promote financial equality for all.
Example of a Digital Financial Service
Digital financial inclusion services are designed to ensure that the unbanked and underserved have access to essential resources through digital means. Some examples of common services include:
Digital Payment Platforms
These services enable digital transactions both offline and online, especially for individuals and small businesses. Examples of these types of platforms include Tipalti, PayPal, Stripe, and Square, which provide invoice processing and digital payment solutions.
Microfinance institutions (MFIs) leverage digital tools to provide savings services and microloans to underserved communities. Companies like SKS Microfinance in India are best known for using digital financial inclusion in remote areas.
P2P lending platforms also help to facilitate lending and borrowing directly between individuals and small businesses, bypassing traditional financial intermediaries.
Mobile money enables individuals to perform various transactions using their mobile phones. These apps offer an additional layer of consumer protection and are highly popular in African countries like Kenya, as well as Pakistan and the Philippines.
Digital Insurance Services
These financial inclusion services provide affordable products to low-income and underserved populations. Examples include microinsurance programs offered by organizations like BIMA in emerging markets.
Digital Wallets and Savings Accounts
Digital wallets (also called e-wallets) offer a range of financial services, including money transfers and payments. Many financial institutions also have digital savings accounts, which enables a user to manage their finances online. One stakeholder in the game is Ally Bank, which offers digital savings accounts with competitive interest rates.
Additional Financial Inclusion Services
- Digital remittance services
- Government initiatives
- Digital identity services
- Cryptocurrency and Blockchain
- Open Banking
How Automation Bridges the Gap for Financial Inclusion
What is one of the smartest ways to address financial access for the underserved? The answer is financial inclusion technology. In fact, automation is finance’s greatest asset and plays a crucial role in bridging the gap for inclusion. Here are a few ways in which automation contributes to financial inclusion:
Accessibility and Scalability
Automated financial services, like digital wallets and mobile banking, are accessible via mobile phones, 24/7. This allows underserved individuals to access services without the need for a physical bank branch.
These types of platforms are also highly scalable. They reach a large number of people with small incremental costs, making these tools suitable for addressing the financial inclusion needs of a rapidly growing population.
Digital financial technology significantly reduces operational costs that come with traditional banking. Digital channels and self-service options require few physical locations and staff.
Automated transactions also incur lower costs compared to traditional methods, like cash or checks. This makes it more affordable for low-income users to engage.
Financial Literacy and Education
Automation enables the smooth delivery of education and financial literacy programs via digital channels. Users can access resources, interactive tools, and tutorials to improve their knowledge and financial decision-making.
Financial inclusion technology helps support employees through digital transformation and communities through growth. The process of digital transformation isn’t easy. Companies must offer employees all the tools needed to equip them for a change and help them commit.
Additional Benefits of Automation
- Remote services like video banking and customer support
- Simplified account opening that requires minimal documentation
- Mobile remittances to simplify sending and receiving money
- P2P lending and crowdfunding to connect borrowers and investors
- Government initiatives to disburse social benefits and subsidiaries
Finance automation, along with the use of digital channels, has the potential to bring financial services to those that have been excluded for a long time, whether they are in the public or private sector.
Digital payments and financial inclusion offer a solid path to economic empowerment, poverty reduction, and improved financial well-being for all.
Financial inclusion technology makes banking a reality for many underserved populations around the world. The benefits of digital financial inclusion will resound for generations to come, and with the right programs, communities will thrive.
Fintech innovations are reshaping the modern financial landscape, both in the United States and globally, making technology more accessible to everyone. By leveraging the right tools, innovations help decrease unbanked rates, encourage communities to manage their finances better, and empower people to improve their financial well-being across the planet.