Financial Opportunity rewards those who open bank accounts

The Financial Opportunity team at UWATX recently had the pleasure of rewarding our Bank on Central Texas grand prize raffle winner, Mark Mead, for taking a critical step towards financial security – opening a bank account.

In April, Financial Opportunity launched a strategic outreach campaign to help Central Texas families save hundreds of dollars each year by opening free or low-cost bank accounts. Mark, who was among many individuals to take part in the campaign, opened an account with Greater Texas Federal Credit Union, conveniently located on his way home.

Without a bank account, families pay close to $1,000 a year in fees to cash checks.

For many unbanked individuals, how close a financial institution is to their home can make a significant difference because getting to a far away location is often not an option.

Transportation is just one of the barriers to accessing quality financial services, along with a lack of education about what services are available and how to access them. Our outreach efforts were another step towards breaking this education barrier.

Without access to mainstream financial services, individuals may spend tens of thousands of dollars over a lifetime on the high fees associated with check cashing, money orders and other alternative financial services. According to the Brookings Institute, the average unbanked worker spends an estimated $40,000 throughout his or her life just to cash paychecks. More than that, a bank account is often the first step towards greater security – the beginning of a relationship with a bank and the start of the path to to accessing lending services.

In Austin, more than 100,000 people are either unbanked or underbanked – meaning they have a bank account but still use services like check cashers and payday loans.

Mark’s prize for the raffle was an iPad mini – how will he use it?

“I was totally caught off guard when I received your phone call – I’ve never won anything before,” Mark said. “I think I’m going use this iPad Mini to help manage my business, Alamo Lawn Care, because I’m always on the go.”

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