By blowing the whistle on Bank of America/Countrywide, I got blacklisted from the banking and insurance industries. Surviving outside the financial grid isn’t all that difficult though. Your financial options depend on your personal financial situation, needs, and resourcefulness. Some services run credit checks, and others hit you with fees.
Here’s a breakdown of your alternative banking options:
If you need to cash a check, but you don’t have a bank account, you’re going to pay a fee. Places like Walmart and your local grocery store will cash a check for the lowest fees, but they do run background checks. If you owe money to a bank, you will be denied. Check cashing, Pay Day Loan, Title Advance, and other such places can be your only option if you need to cash the check in a pinch. The fees are hefty, though, so avoid these at all costs.
Your best long term option is to re-enroll in school. Even if it’s just for one class, you can apply for financial aid. Also, your ability to get a student deposit account is much easier because schools partner with smaller lending institutions who are willing to pick up the tab for college students. Yes, you may pick up student loan debt, but it’s better that this money go toward your education than to a loan shark. These deposit accounts tend to have MasterCard and Visa branding. Often, these companies grow into banks and grandfather you into an account.
If you’re lucky enough to be employed by a company that offers financial options, get an account open through them. Even if you’re blacklisted, you may be able to get an account this way. If you know someone who works at a bank, they’ll often be able to push your account application through, but rules change all the time. You can cash a check through a friend with a bank account, as long as they have enough money in their account to cover it.
If you need direct deposit, the above methods of obtaining a backend bank account are great options, but you’re not limited to these. Prepaid debit cards often have routing numbers to allow for deposits. Student loan deposit accounts have these, as well.
These days, a plastic card is easier to get than cash. Aside from the prepaid debit options listed above, you can also purchase prepaid debit cards branded with Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and more. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and it’s recommended to only use them for temporary purposes. If you have it longer than a month, you may be charged fees. There are also purchase fees you must worry about. Traveling internationally only compounds the fees. These cards are easy to use, however.
If you’re looking for a simple way to budget, gift cards are a great option. Look for gift cards to places you shop at regularly, and for a variety of needs (i.e Target, any grocery store or gas station, Amazon, etc). This way you can control your budget by loading the cards with specific amounts. Also, by keeping only the cards you need with you, you control impulse spending.
If you’re tech-savvy, there are even more alternative banking options. Bitcoin and Litecoin have emerged as a digital alternative to currency. Both Amazon and PayPal have expanding deposit and spending options (PayPal’s options include a plastic card). Even Fiverr is getting in the game with their branded MasterCard deposit account.
Google has their own Wallet program, and Facebook is looking for more ways to keep you on their web portal. It’s only a matter of time before both become robust banking alternatives. Apple and Microsoft won’t be far behind. By the time each of these companies rolls out a banking option, it’ll be obvious the “too big to fail” banking industry should have collapsed decades ago.
In order to feel comfortable with alternative banking solutions, you need to be sure it’ll pay your rent. Your landlord or lending institution may require a specific form of payment, so it’s best to familiarize yourself with all of the options above.
Personally, I use PayPal, Amazon, Google, prepaid debit cards, and I have a student deposit account. Each has a use. You can still store money like a boss without a bank.
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