Keep your money: Free banking is for low-income people, too

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Plenty of American children know the thrill of opening a savings account and watching their small deposits grow in a passbook every time they visit the bank. Not enough adults enjoy the same experience.

Usually people with lower incomes, these workers, parents or heads of households become captives of payday lenders and check-cashing businesses that impose stiff fees for simple financial transactions. They pay their bills with money orders that come with a charge, even though banks all over town offer free checking accounts with no minimum balance.

Bank on Greater Pittsburgh is a worthy program that wants to change all this and show residents of modest means how to access no-cost or low-cost financial services that will leave them with more money in their pocket or in an account that will help them in the future. The program, which can be reached at 412-227-4191 or, was launched by the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, with help from community groups, government leaders, banks and credit unions.

With a national savings rate of only 4.3 percent, compared to 14 percent in the early ’70s, all Americans should be thinking more about their financial future. But it’s hard to do unless you know the ins and outs of free banking.

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