March 31, 2022

Cryptocurrency And People Without Bank Accounts

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In Atlantic City, we live a mile from the nearest bank branch, but there’s a cryptocurrency ATM on our block. Especially since many of our neighbors still seem to use cash at the local market rather than shopping online, we’re wondering what people think about cryptocurrencies?

A few years ago, for a story about the money-transfer business, we rode our bikes up and down this stretch of Atlantic Avenue talking to people about money…as in, Where do they put it?

According to the FDIC, about 4% of people in New Jersey didn’t have a bank account in 2019 (we suspect in A.C. it’s a lot higher).

The store owner says one or two people use the machine. It’s a little hard to tell from the screen whether you can do anything other than buy Bitcoin. The machine manufacturer’s site, however, says once you have an account set up (in less than a minute, they claim!) you can buy, sell and transfer three different crypto coins (Bitcoin, Ether and Litecoin).

According to this article, more people are using cryptocurrencies to send money to relatives in other countries. And according to this research, New Jersey has clusters of “alternative financial services” like payday lenders, check-cashing shops, pawn brokers, etc. in areas where people are shut out of the traditional banking system.

Last year, PNC and TD Bank, which have Atlantic City branches, both launched services targeting potential customers without existing bank accounts. The idea is to offer basic accounts with no “surprise fees” that are a safe place to store money. The question, to us, is how will they compare for fees, convenience and safety with the cryptocurrency ATM around the corner?

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