WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Most people use banks and credit unions to deposit paychecks and cash checks, but thousands do not, and officials say it is costing them.

United Way of the Plains says approximately 6.6% of households in Wichita rely on pricier alternative services — like check cashers, payday lenders and pawn shops — for routine financial transactions. United Way says those people are half as likely to save for emergencies as those with traditional financial accounts. It also says they can spend more than $40,000 over a lifetime in fees to access their money.

In order to help people improve their financial stability, United Way is collaborating with area financial institutions to get special accounts and support services for low to moderate-income households.

The coalition they’ve formed is called Bank On ICT. It’s part of a national movement to connect “unbanked” people with safe and affordable financial products and practices.

The three financial institutions that are part of the coalition so far are Bank of America, Commerce Bank, and Intrust Bank. Others in the community have signed on to help connect residents with Bank On ICT services:

  • Consumer Credit Counseling Services Inc.
  • Dear Neighbor Ministries
  • Empower
  • Goodwill Industries of Kansas
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Lead for Kansas
  • Meritrust Credit Union
  • StepStone
  • Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas
  • YMCA

Michelle Presnell, United Way of the Plains community impact manager for financial stability, is leading Bank On ICT. She said members of the coalition are dedicated to reducing and removing barriers to safe and affordable banking products.

“Some people may have identification, credit or banking history problems. Others can’t consistently meet minimum balance requirements,” she said. “Bank On coalitions operate across the nation as part of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. They’ve successfully helped those in need and connected them with other helpful resources like credit counseling and translation services. Financial empowerment is important for stabilizing individuals and families.”

There are currently 90 Bank On programs across the country.

“This is the first one in Kansas, but we hope to increase awareness about how transformative Bank On programs can be in strengthening communities around the state,” Presnell said. “It’s our hope that other regions in Kansas will want to get involved and develop their own Bank On initiatives.”

Click here to learn more about Bank On ICT and to find a list of participating financial institutions.

You can also get questions answered at two Information and Resource Fair events:

  • Saturday, Oct. 1, 1-4 p.m. at the Atwater Neighborhood Resource Center, 2755 E. 19th Street
  • Saturday, Oct. 8, noon to 2 p.m., Colvin Neighborhood Resource Center, 2820 S. Roosevelt

United Way of the Plains would like more financial institutions and community partners to get involved with Bank On ICT. Contact Presnell at 316-267-1321, ext. 4232 or send an email to mpresnell@unitedwayplains.org.