25% of Americans are unbanked or underbanked according to a November 2020 letter written by a group of US representatives (Patel & Ortlieb). This cohort is synonymously referred to as a cash-preferred population, relying on over-the-counter financial services like check-cashing and money orders to pay rent, utilities, etc. The FDIC estimates that cash-preferred Americans spend $3,000 annually in fees for these alternative financial services (Birken).
Cash is King in Rural America
Rural America has lost 14% of bank branches since 2012. Compounding the lack of access to in-person financial services with 12% of rural Americans missing out on high-speed Internet options; cash-preferred rural communities are at a disadvantage considering the continued digitization of finances (Meachem). The “high-speed” threshold used in this FCC survey is 25 Mbps, suggesting that far more rural communities experience speeds that don’t support modern streaming technology or other services that have a significant impact on increasing efficiencies of daily life (Meachem). These disparities promote the use of cash for daily transactions, rent payments, and bills. As Covid-19 continues the technological progression to more digital daily interaction, the limited access to Internet service widens the gap in rural communities to capitalize on newfound tech conveniences.
Serving Cash-Preferred Customers
Focusing on the utility sector, cash preferred customers experience incongruity considering convenient pay methods compared to those paying with their checking account or credit card. Often, utilities rely on office locations or a network of local retailers to accept in-person payments. This limits the availability of in-person options, as most office and grocery service desks close between 5-7p. Additionally, slow posting times and long lines, in some cases, create a negative perception regarding the experience. Lobbies and service desks remained close in certain areas of the country, further limiting in-person options. Lastly, companies are limiting person-to-person interactions and customers are expecting an advance in self-service technologies.
Bill Pay Kiosks Go the Last Mile
Utilities and telecom companies throughout the US have implemented bill pay kiosks in recent years to alleviate the ails described above and with the continuing shift in culture, there is a thrust in deploying self-service payment terminals. With real-time posting capabilities, indoor and outdoor kiosk models, 24×7 availability, and targeted acquisition of local retail partners, U.S. Payments (USP) PaySite® kiosk provides fast, easy, and convenient in-person payments for customers. PaySite operates on USP’s patented Transaction Management System, touting real-time posting for customers, PCI Level 1 Compliant security, and simple reporting and reconciliation for biller clients.
Birken, E. G. (2020, July 28). The Costs Of Being Unbanked Or Underbanked. forbes.com.
MEACHEM, A. (2020, July 27). Why some rural communities lack high-speed internet. Government Technology State & Local Articles – e.Republic. https://www.govtech.com/network/Why-Some-Rural-Communities-Lack-High-Speed-Internet.html
Patel, B., & Ortlieb, P. (2021, February 12). US payments infrastructure perpetuates financial exclusion. OMFIF. https://www.omfif.org/2021/02/us-payments-infrastructure-perpetuates-financial-exclusion/