Catholic University Law Review


In the United States, the poor often lack access to mainstream banking services. Instead, they rely on expensive, poorly regulated alternatives like check cashers, payday lenders, pawnshops, and auto title lenders. These financial products jeopardize poor people’s financial and physical security. In pushing adoption of traditional banking products, both government officials and private enterprise have attempted to craft solutions to the banking access problem, but so far these attempts have fallen short. This Article asserts that mobile banking may be a transformative technology that can significantly increase financial inclusion in the United States.

The Article discusses current statistics and demographics of mobile phone ownership in the United States, the success of overseas mobile banking programs aimed at helping the poor, and the current prepaid card industry in the United States. The Article draws lessons from these case studies and asserts that bringing the unbanked into the regulated banking system is worth private investment in mobile banking products and platforms. (The Article also argues that if private entities do not find it fiscally feasible to pursue this market, public funds can and should be expended.) The Article recommends specific account features that would benefit the currently unbanked, and proposes that customer identification procedures can be relaxed for small-balance accounts designed specifically to increase financial inclusion.