Breaking up is hard to do, especially when it is with a tracking service like a financial institution.
Sometimes you can make a clean break and other times you have to remain “just friends”.
The US government actually has a name for people who have no bank accounts – they call these folks “the unbanked”. The FDIC defines the unbanked as “those without an account at a bank or other financial institution and are considered to be outside the mainstream for one reason or another.” Another term is “the underbanked” – “people or businesses that have poor access to mainstream financial services normally offered by retail banks. The underbanked can be characterized by a strong reliance on non-traditional forms of finance and micro-finance often associated with disadvantaged and the poor, such as check cashers, loan sharks and pawnbrokers.”
According to the government, the above scenarios are crisis situations which must be rectified for “your own good”. There is legislation on the table in many states to set up banking facilities for the unbanked and underbanked. The assumption is that most folks who do not deal with a bank are too poor to do so. This could be true in many cases: high minimum balances, bad credit history, NSFs, and account fees can all preclude having a bank account for those in difficult financial straits.
However, the government has a couple more reasons to insist that everyone should have a bank account:
1.) Ease of confiscation
We need only to look at the horrible situation in Cyprus to see how bank accounts are like all-you-can-steal-buffets for the powers that be. A suggested theft TAX of up to 20% of the money in Cypriot bank accounts may be levied in order for the country to meet it’s staggering debts in the terms of the proposed EU bailout. The banks of Cyprus are loaded with the money of residents and businesses of other countries that have used them as a tax haven. The banks have been closed for several days and frantic customers are left to withdraw the maximum daily balances from ATM machines in an attempt to salvage what they can. Many people fear the banks will never reopen their doors.
Think it can’t happen here? I wonder if the people of Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Hungary, Argentina, Spain, and Portugal thought that too.
The second reason that “everyone should have access to banking services” is the digital trail that it leaves. Every dime you receive and spend out of these accounts is part of an intricate system of surveillance. When your money goes into a bank – any bank – Big Brother knows about it. It’s a simple matter of compiling information via your social security number (or other federally-assigned number) to find out how much you make, how much you have, and where it comes from. This can be used to prosecute you for tax purposes, to locate you through where your pay comes from, and to follow your personal money trail for a variety of different reasons.
It can also be used to track your spending – Big Brother can find out that you spent $2000 at a gun store, that you purchased online from a prepper supply website or that you bought some books with “questionable” content in order to paint you as a threat.
So, in this day and age, is it possible to get by completely without a bank account?
It’s tough. Most work places prefer to pay through direct deposit. Many landlords, mortgage companies and finance companies do business through direct debit. You’re going to pay some steep fees if this is the route that you choose to go. For some, it might be worth it, particularly if you only have a few transactions in a month.
Here are some places you can cash checks for a fee:
- Check cashing depots
- Some retailers like Walmart, 7-11, and some grocery stores (the number of these is dropping rapidly)
- Pawn shops
- The issuing bank will sometimes cash a check drawn from one of their accounts for a non-account holder
- Some prepaid credit card accounts will accept a direct deposit (in my opinion, this is nearly as unsafe as having your money in a bank account)
- Through a friend or family member’s account (also risky – for both you and the account holder)
Here are some ways you can pay bills without a bank account:
- In person, with cash, cashier’s checks, or money orders
- Through the mail, with cashier’s checks or money orders
- Online, with prepaid credit cards
- Through a kiosk using a prepaid credit card
- At a check-cashing depot or retailer