Helping the Unbanked Get a Fresh Start

By Annie Sheldon Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent
Posted 10/17/18

Close to seven percent of households in Clay County are “unbanked” which means they do not have any accounts at a bank or other financial institution.

This is due to several reasons such as …

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Helping the Unbanked Get a Fresh Start


Close to seven percent of households in Clay County are “unbanked” which means they do not have any accounts at a bank or other financial institution.

This is due to several reasons such as not having enough money for the minimum balance, a lack of trust in banks, high or unpredictable fees for bank accounts, the feeling of not having enough money to justify an account, or credit or banking history problems.

Many of these unbanked families are forced to use expensive alternative services like check cashers and pay day lenders. These services often charge high fees that prevent people from getting ahead.

I have seen individuals pay up to 10 percent of their salary for check cashing services and up to 400 percent interest on pay day loans. On average, these fees cause families to lose $1,000-2,000 of their income each year.

Without a checking account, families wind up paying too much for basic financial transactions and are hard pressed to build savings. Also, there’s no way to receive direct deposits from an employer and it’s very difficult to start building a credit history for future borrowing.

I encourage residents to take that important step toward reaching your financial goals by staring a banking relationship. Banks and credit unions can offer more than a safe place to put money for day-to-day needs and to save for the future.

A checking or savings account can help individuals be better prepared to borrow for a car or a home, gain access to free or affordable financial services, and benefit from deposit insurance and other consumer protections.

Have you been turned down for a checking account due to money management issues? If so, are you looking for new ways to improve your financial health and to have a fresh start with a checking account? The University of Florida/IFAS Extension in partnership is VyStar Credit Union offers individuals in this situation a second chance to successful banking by attending a 3-hour financial education class.

The “Fresh Start Program” teaches participants how to develop a successful spending and savings plan, identify the advantages of having a checking account, and understand why good credit is important. This information also helps provide participants with the tools necessary to keep their new checking account in good standing with no overdrafts while protecting their income and having more wealth-building opportunities.

Fresh Start participants report that they are more likely to open checking and savings accounts, use and adhere to a spending plan, and have increased confidence in their financial abilities.

If you are interested in this program or would like more information, contact Annie Sheldon at the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Clay County at (904) 284-6355 or


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