Lost in the Mail: Why Bank Account Access Is Not Translating into Usage

Is it possible that bank accounts are often not the answer to customers' needs?

This Note, the fourth in the MAP (Making Access Possible) Global Insights Series, zeroes in on what it means to use a financial product – in this case, bank accounts. The paper considers the cross-country evidence on the gap between ownership and usage of bank accounts. It queries whether bank accounts are the appropriate product for increasing customer welfare, and argues the need for a paradigm shift away from focusing on ownership to a focus on usage.

The note also examines how the way in which bank accounts are being used by consumers in the MAP pilot countries for the most part ultimately leads to consumers being worse off financially. It then considers why policymakers, providers and donors should be very concerned about this situation, and suggests possible options under the circumstances.

The paper poses two important questions: 

  1. Is it possible that – contrary to the prevailing emphasis – bank accounts are often not the answer? 
  2. And if this is so, where might the answer lie?

About this Publication

By Saunders, D., Gray, J., Bester, H. & Van der Linden, A.