Photo by Donna Currall/Flickr

The United States Postal Service has begun offering financial services in four cities, including Baltimore, in the first step towards a potential return to a postal banking system.

The pilot program is also running in Washington, D.C.; Falls Church, Va.; and the Bronx, N.Y. 

While the program is extremely limited – only one post office in each of the four areas is participating – it has the potential to expand. 

The new services include ATM access, check cashing, bill paying, and increased and expanded money orders and wire transfers. Postal customers can redeem paychecks for Visa gift cards, with a maximum amount of $500. 

Postal banking has made a comeback in recent years, gaining traction among Democratic politicians and activists. 

Supporters of postal banking argue that it is a way to revive the struggling U.S. Postal Service and make payment services more accessible to middle- and low-income Americans.

According to a 2019 survey by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 5.5% of households in the statistical area of Baltimore, Columbia, and Towson are unbanked, meaning they do not have a bank account or use banking services. This number is up from 1.8% of households in 2017. 

Given the increasing number of bank branches that are closing, Americans in both urban and rural areas will continue to live in “banking deserts,” areas that lack access to financial services. In 2020, U.S. banks closed 3,324 branches nationwide, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. 

Advocates of postal banking also point to the system’s long and successful history in the United States. 

The system rose to prominence in the 1890s during the Populist movement. In the early 20th century, working people argued that postal banking would provide financial security and affordable credit. 

Postal banking was officially established in 1910, following the Panic of 1907, the first worldwide financial crisis of the 20th century. The system ran for 56 years, until it was shut down when bankers successfully lobbied to end the service in 1967. 

4 replies on “Baltimore is one of four cities in USPS postal banking pilot program”

  1. Joke. Cant deliver mail on time or be self sufficient financially but want to give the federal agency more scope and responsibility

    1. It must be you and your bad luck and bad information. I’ve used USPS for my small business and I’ve only had 2-3 issues a year. Some folks are just losers at everything.

  2. I wouldn’t trust them and the federal government will run it. I think Biden wants to be a king because he sure is acting like it. Can we say government overreach?

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