Bank On Charleston

Launched in October 2020, Bank On Charleston is a coalition of public and private entities seeking to provide financial services to Unbanked and Underbanked individuals in the Charleston community.

What is Bank On Charleston? 

Bank On Charleston is part of a larger Bank On Coalition the goal of which is to ensure that everyone has access to a safe and affordable bank or credit union account. Part of the mission is to connect people with bank accounts that have low fees and no overdraft penalties. Bank On Charleston works with local financial institutions and organizations to provide the necessary resources to set up people with bank or credit union accounts that work for them and provide financial literacy services and resources.   

The Facts:

  • 63M adults in the US are un- or underbanked, often relying on costly alternative financial services—such as check cashers, payday lenders, and pawn shops—for routine financial transactions.
    1. 19.4% of households in SC are underbanked 
      • 13% of white households in SC are underbanked
      • 32.2% of Black households in SC are underbanked 
    2. 6.7 % of households in SC are unbanked 
      • 2.1% of white households in SC are unbanked 2.1%  
      • 18% of Black households in SC are unbanked 
  • Around 37% of unbanked and 45% of underbanked house-holds make $30,000 or less a year
  • Reasons people are un/underbanked:
    1. not enough money for minimum balance 
    2. distrust of financial institutions
    3. High or unpredictable fees
    4. Identification 
    5. History of credit or banking problems

Why Bank?

  • Cost savings: The average unbanked person spends 5% of net income on unnecessary fees for alternative financial services. This can amount to $40,000 over a lifetime—a significant amount for those who can least afford it. 
  • Asset building: Without a bank account, a family lacks the ability to save reliably or automatically, or establish a banking relationship that can lead to accessing affordable credit for opportunities like a car, small business, or home mortgage. 
  • Financial stability: Research shows that being unbanked makes it harder to achieve financial goals like reducing debt and improving credit scores. One recent CFE Fund study found that unbanked financial counseling clients were less than half as likely to be able to save, and over a third less likely to establish credit, as banked clients.
  • Public safety: Without a safe place to deposit their money, unbanked people are more likely to be victims of crime because they often carry large sums of cash or keep cash in their homes. The elderly, disabled, and undocumented immigrants can be particularly vulnerable.

Current Steering Committee Partners

  • City of Charleston Department of Housing and Community Development
  • City of Charleston Division of Business and Neighborhood Services
  • Bank of America
  • Charleston Promise Neighborhood
  • Increasing Hope
  • Origin SC
  • Palmetto Community Action Partnership
  • SC Works
  • South State Bank
  • Trident Urban League


For more information, contact AmeriCorps VISTA Eliza Bower at, or by phone at 843-965-4190.