At the beginning of this year, the U.S. Postal Service issued a white paper floating the idea of offering financial services for Americans without bank accounts. The USPS sees this as a win-win: the services will help an estimated 68 million people living paycheck to paycheck, and the post office will gain new revenue to put it back on secure financial footing.
The post office is exploring several ideas, including offering reloadable pre-paid debit cards, bill payment services and even small loans. In the marketplace for alternative financial services, about $89 billion was spent on interest and fees in 2012, according to the USPS. If the quasigovernmental agency could tap just 10 percent of that, it would put $8.9 billion in its coffers every year.
The question of whether the post office should wade into non-bank financial services was recently taken up by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which held a one-day conference on July 16 to discuss the issue.
Pew recently shared some information to help push the debate along, and conducted a survey of consumers’ attitudes toward using the post office as a resource for financial services. Here’s what the public had to say:
The USPS Office of the Inspector General believes it can begin to test some of these new ideas for financial services without the need for Congressional approval.
“The 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) generally prohibits the Postal Service from offering new nonpostal services,” the OIG wrote in its January 27, 2014 white paper. “However, given that the Postal Service is already providing money orders and other types of non-bank financial services, it could explore additional options within its existing authority.”
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