The Lowcountry has a new initiative to help improve the financial future of low-income residents. Bank On Charleston, led by local municipalities, non-profits, and for-profit partners, will connect residents without bank accounts (unbanked or under-banked residents) to affordable mainstream financial services.

The need is great for this initiative. In the Charleston, North Charleston, and Summerville Metro areas, it is estimated that 238,632 households are unbanked or under-banked. These individuals and families operate in a mainly cash-based system, missing out on the stabilizing benefits a checking account provides, such as:

Cost savings: The average unbanked person spends five percent of net income on unnecessary fees.
Public safety: Without a safe place to keep their money, unbanked people are more likely to be victims of crime because they often carry large sums of cash on their person or keep cash in their homes.
Disaster preparedness: In the event of an emergency, unbanked families have no safe way to access their money, and any cash kept in the home may be lost.
Asset building: Without a bank account, a family lacks the ability to save for the future, establish credit and access asset-building instruments such as loans for a car, small business or home mortgage.

In addition to connecting unbanked/under-banked residents, Bank On Charleston will provide financial education and budget management training to empower the consumer to use banking products safely and responsibly. The goal of the initiative is to bank 1,200 residents over the next twelve months.

The Bank On Charleston initiative is modeled after successful Bank On initiatives in San Francisco and Savannah, and is part of the national initiative, Bank On.

The Steering Committee of the Bank On Charleston initiative includes the following organizations: City of Charleston, City of North Charleston, Charleston County, the Greater Charleston Empowerment Corporation, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), SC Community Loan Fund, the Charleston Area Community Development Corporation, Charleston Trident Urban League, Family Services Inc., Metanoia, Human Services Commission, CresCom Bank, SunTrust Bank, Branch Banking & Trust (BB&T), First Federal Bank., S.C. Bank and Trust (SCBT), National Bank of South Carolina (NBSC), City of Charleston Public Housing Authority, North Charleston Public Housing Authority, and Trident United Way.