Is Check Cashing Coming to a Post Office Near You?

July 1, 2015

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Activists protest for predatory loan reform in Illinois.

(This article first appeared in the July-August 2015 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

A May 21 report by the USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) outlines the next steps for implementing postal banking – where post offices would offer affordable banking transactions to every zip code in the country, while strengthening the Postal Service.

The report, titled, “The Road Ahead for Postal Financial Services,” says that expanding and enhancing existing financial services, such as money orders, international money transfers, check cashing and bill payments could be accomplished without an act of Congress.

According to the OIG’s “conservative estimate,” this expansion could bring the Postal Service $1.1 billion in annual revenue within five years while serving 68 million Americans who don’t have bank accounts or who “rely on expensive services like payday lending and check cashing.”

Some refer to these predatory businesses as “alternative financial services.” APWU President Mark Dimondstein calls them “legal loan sharks.”

Among the expanded offerings, post offices “could provide ATMs where recipients of government benefits could withdraw funds without paying a fee,” the report says.

Dimondstein praised the idea. “It’s a no-brainer,” he said. “The Inspector General’s report confirms that the Postal Service can act now to provide consumers with affordable financial services while strengthening our trusted national treasure, the public Postal Service.

“We look forward to the day when people can get their checks cashed by their trusted neighborhood window clerk,” he said.

Clerk Craft National Business Agent Shirley J. Taylor made a presentation on postal banking at the convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) in Chicago on May 23. CBTU is a founding partner in the Campaign for Postal Banking and passed a resolution in support of the concept at its 2014 convention.

“We had a great response to the idea of postal banking,” Taylor said. “The CBTU assembly was surprised to hear how deep predatory practices had invaded our communities. For example, they were unaware that one in four households is at least partially outside the financial mainstream or underserved by traditional banks, and that the percentage of African-Americans underserved is 53.6 percent.”

Taylor began working at the Postal Service in 1962 and remembers handling deposits for the Postal Savings System, which existed from 1911 to 1966. “It was just something everybody did,” she said. “A safe, convenient place to put your money.”
The APWU is a member of the Campaign for Postal Banking, a coalition of consumer, worker, financial reform, economic justice, community, civic, and faith-based groups that is organizing support for the concept.

The Campaign has launched a website – – where you can learn more about the issue, sign up for more information, and find media coverage. Be sure to follow the campaign on Twitter at @bankpostal. 

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