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New apps help Latinos get debit cards without bank accounts

Financial tech companies are offering Latinos a way to get debit cards that they might not otherwise be able to get to make cashless transactions.
Credit: 9NEWS

COLORADO, USA — Latino households are less likely than non-Hispanic whites to use the banking system, and some financial tech companies (fintech) want to change that by helping unbanked Latinos get debit cards so they can make cashless transactions.  

According to NBC News, a 2019 FDIC survey showed that 12.2% of Hispanic households were "unbanked," compared to 2.5% of white households.  

The top two reasons for unbanked households not having bank accounts were not having enough money to meet the minimum balance requirements and a distrust of banks.

According to Axios, banks have historically charged people of color higher fees, made it harder for them to access business loans or given them higher-cost mortgages. Not having access to banks can also make it more difficult for Latinos to access car leases, high-yield savings and develop good credit scores.  

To help Latinos obtain debit cards that allow them to make cashless transactions, some fintech companies are offering mobile apps that don't require a social security number and will accept an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or a Mexican Matrícula card. 

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The newer options offered by fintech designed specifically for Latino and Hispanic immigrants include the bilingual digital wallets, or applications, PODERcard and B9, which according to Axios, offer linked prepaid debit cards that can be used in stores and ATMs, without commissions or minimum amounts.

“There’s this myth that the migrant and Latino community only wants to make cash transactions, but that only happened because there was no other option," Raúl Lomelí-Azoubel, co-founder of SaberesPoder (SEP), told Axios"We know that this community wants to save, invest, and it needs those financial solutions."

In the past, Latinos have used fintech products like Remitly and PayPal's Xoom to send money from the US to Latin America and the Caribbean in the place of banks, according to Axios.

NBC News said people without bank accounts can take a big hit to their wallets through check cashing, cashier's check costs or high-interest payday loans.

The cost of cashing a check can range between 1% and 12% of the value of the check; cashier's checks cost between $10 and $15 and those who use payday loans end up paying more than 300% interest, according to NBC News.

Axios says Latinos, particularly people in the country without proper documentation, are more dependent on predatory services like payday loans, which have very high interest rates, or check-cashing or money order services that come with hefty fees. 

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