An increasingly large number of Americans do not have bank accounts. This number has grown by about ten percent in the last four years and is expected to climb. This presents what some view as a dilemma and others view as an opportunity.
In this internet age it is more expensive for an employer to print out checks and much cheaper to use direct deposit. This being the case, more and more employers are dropping the check option. Whether or not this effects you is dependent upon where you live as there are different rules in each state. It is a growing trend and one that will certainly continue to rise.
The problem end of the issue is how to pay employees who don’t have bank accounts of any sort and cannot accept direct deposits. To solve this issue banks began to allow employers to pay their employees onto what are called payroll cards. At this point all seems well and good. If people choose not to have a bank account that’s certainly their option. If companies choose to save money by using direct deposit that is also within their legal right, depending upon the state.
Banks incur some expenses in issuing these payroll cards and the plan was to recoup this amount through charges on the cards. There is a charge to deposit money on the card, a charge to withdraw money with the card, a charge to inquire on the balance of the card, a charge to receive a statement for the card, a charge to replace the card, and even an inactivity charge if you don’t use the card!
I think you can guess that the banking industry quickly realized that this service they were providing offered an opportunity to make a lot of money. They started to push the idea to the companies, some even give kick backs … er … rewards, to businesses that have their employees use payroll cards.
Companies enjoy these rewards and started to make it easier for employees to get the payroll cards and more difficult for them to use direct deposits. A woman sued because a McDonald’s refused to direct deposit into her Credit Union. That was, of course, illegal and they’ve agreed to start offering direct deposit to their employees now.
Other companies are simply making it very difficult to use direct deposits because banks are offering them major rewards for every employee then can get on the payroll card.
I’m not totally against the banks here. They are providing a service to people who choose not to have bank accounts and that service needs to be paid for with fees. However, it is clear that the banking industry sees this as not a way to provide a service but a way to steal money from people. Yes, I said steal. If the banks were charging some minimal fee and making a small profit on the cards I wouldn’t call it stealing but when they colluded with companies to provide no other option and charge far more than it costs to provide the service they are engaged in anti-trust practices.
This practice affects the poorest people the most as they are generally the ones without bank accounts and without other recourse. They need that minimum wage job and can’t easily go somewhere else. As the check payment method continues to decline their options will become even more limited.
What’s the solution? It’s not easy. The government could start to regulate these payroll cards for excessive fees like they do banks for other services but such efforts often end up with unintended consequences.
What I would love to see is a return to real competition. A group of people sees an opportunity to offer cards with lower fees and starts a Credit Union or Bank. This forces the existing banks to lower their fees until a competitive and fair level is reached. Right now the we don’t live in a capitalistic country anymore. We live in a country where if you tried to do that you’d be legislated out of business by the crony capitalist in your community, your state, and in Washington D.C. Anti-trust practices are ignored. The business that pays for the elections gets legislation passed that ensure their success and rival’s failure.
This system is so dangerous that it could potentially destroy our great nation. It is not the threat Ayn Rand warned us about in the communist dominated era when she wrote her novels but the effects are the same.
Rand warns us of the dangers of giving not what is earned but what is needed; communism.
If she was alive today I think she would have warned us that it is just as dangerous to allow success not to be derived through hard work, fair prices, and good ideas but instead through political connections; crony capitalism.
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 is a fair price for 300+ pages of my hard work, if you disagree, don’t buy it!)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt