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The term “unbanked” refers to individuals who do not have access to or use traditional banking services, such as checking or savings accounts, through a financial institution like a bank or credit union. These individuals typically rely on alternative financial services like check-cashing businesses, pawnshops, or payday lenders to manage their money. Unbanked populations are often found in lower-income or underserved communities, where access to financial institutions can be limited.


The phonetic transcription of the keyword “Unbanked” is /ʌnˈbæŋkt/.

Key Takeaways

  1. Unbanked refers to individuals who do not have access to traditional banking services, often due to geographical, economic, or social barriers.
  2. Unbanked people can benefit from alternative financial services such as digital wallets, mobile banking, and cryptocurrency-based platforms, which can provide increased accessibility, lower costs, and faster transactions.
  3. Financial inclusion efforts worldwide aim to reduce the number of unbanked individuals by expanding the reach of banking services and fostering economic development within underserved communities.


The term “unbanked” is important in business and finance because it refers to a population that lacks access to traditional banking services, such as checking and savings accounts, credit, and loans. This lack of access can create barriers to financial stability and economic growth, as unbanked individuals and communities may face difficulty in managing their finances, building credit, obtaining necessary capital for entrepreneurial ventures, and participating in the formal economy. Addressing the causes of the unbanked population and implementing solutions to increase financial inclusion can contribute to poverty reduction, social equity, and overall economic development.


The term “unbanked” refers to individuals or groups who do not hold an account with a formal financial institution, such as a bank or credit union. This situation often arises due to various factors including income restrictions, lack of proper identification, or mistrust of the banking system. These individuals often turn to alternative financial services to handle their day-to-day transactions, including money orders, check cashing services, or prepaid debit cards. By not having access to a bank account, these individuals miss out on the benefits of modern banking, such as interest accumulation, lower transaction fees, and a more comprehensive set of financial services. The focus on addressing the unbanked population lies primarily in financial inclusion – the idea that all members of a society should have access to affordable and convenient financial services to participate in the global economy. It is critical for community growth and poverty reduction, as it allows individuals to save, invest, or borrow money for personal development, skill training, or business expansion. Policymakers, financial institutions, and non-government organizations often collaborate to develop innovative solutions to incorporate this population into the financial mainstream. By extending financial services to the unbanked, economies can become more resilient, and households can acquire a sense of stability and security that comes from having access to a wide range of financial tools and opportunities.


1. Mobile Money Services in Kenya: M-PESA is a highly successful mobile money transfer and microfinance service in Kenya. It was specifically designed to cater to the unbanked population, which constitutes a significant portion of the country’s low-income individuals who lack access to formal banking services. M-PESA allows users to send and receive money, pay bills, and access credit through their mobile phones, eliminating the need for a traditional bank account. 2. Postal Banking in Brazil: In Brazil, a large number of people living in remote or rural areas do not have access to traditional banking services. To address this issue, the government partnered with the national postal service, Correios, to create Banco Postal, a service that leverages the extensive postal network to provide basic financial services to the unbanked population. Through Banco Postal, users can open savings accounts, access credit, and pay bills, all at their local post office. 3. Microfinance Institutions in India: India has a significant unbanked population, particularly in rural areas where banking infrastructure is sparse. Microfinance institutions (MFIs) like SKS Microfinance, Bandhan Bank, and Grameen Koota have stepped in to provide crucial financial services to these communities. These MFIs offer small loans, savings accounts, insurance, and other banking products tailored specifically for the unbanked, often using group lending models and community-based credit systems to provide support to small entrepreneurs and low-income households.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What does the term “unbanked” mean?
Unbanked refers to individuals who do not have access to, or choose not to have, any banking or financial services, such as bank accounts or credit cards. These people usually rely on cash transactions and alternative financial services like check-cashing or payday loans.
Why are some people unbanked?
There are several reasons why someone might be unbanked, including lack of access to banking services, distrust in the banking system, inability to meet minimum balance requirements, poor credit history, or cultural and personal preferences.
What are the challenges faced by the unbanked population?
The unbanked face numerous challenges, including lack of access to loans at fair interest rates, difficulty in paying bills or making purchases online, lack of financial planning and budgeting resources, and limited options for saving and investing. Moreover, relying on alternative financial services can be expensive, leading to a higher overall cost of managing personal finances.
How can the unbanked gain access to financial services?
The unbanked can access financial services by opening basic checking or savings accounts, which typically require minimal opening deposits and no minimum balance. Some financial institutions also offer “second chance” accounts for those with a poor credit history. Additionally, non-profit organizations may provide assistance with financial education and resources for managing personal finances.
What role does technology play in assisting the unbanked population?
Technology increasingly plays an essential role in providing financial services to the unbanked. Mobile banking apps, digital wallets, and online payment systems make it more accessible and convenient for people to manage their money without relying on traditional banking institutions. In some countries, mobile money transfer services have been successful in reaching the unbanked population and enabling access to essential financial services.
What is the significance of serving the unbanked population?
Providing financial services to the unbanked population has various economic and social benefits. It can help lift people out of poverty, increase economic opportunity, and promote financial inclusion. By providing access to banking and financial services, individuals can better manage their finances, plan for emergencies, and invest in assets.
What initiatives have been taken to address the needs of the unbanked?
Several initiatives aim to reduce the number of unbanked people worldwide. Banks, credit unions, and mobile financial service providers are expanding their reach to serve low-income and rural communities. Governments and NGOs are also promoting financial literacy and inclusion by offering resources and support to help individuals access and appropriately utilize financial services.

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