Publication Date



Having a bank account is one important way for households to securely accumulate savings, build credit, and earn interest on assets. Nationally, 7.7% of households are unbanked—lacking both a checking and a savings account. One proposed step toward financial inclusion is to encourage unbanked households to open accounts and deposit refunds into savings at tax time, when many low-income households receive the year’s largest lump sum of cash. This brief utilizes data from the 2013 Refund to Savings study to summarize differences between banked and unbanked households. The findings show that unbanked status is a marker for other financial disadvantages, including having more unsecured debt and fewer assets. However, many who were unbanked at the time of the first survey were banked by the 6-month follow-up survey. Also, about a third of unbanked households expressed interest in opening a new account at tax time. Policies and products should facilitate account opening and retention of low-income households in the banking system.

Document Type

Research Brief


Financial Inclusion


Financial Behaviors

Original Citation

Grinstein-Weiss, M., Perantie, D. C., Oliphant, J. E., deRuyter, A., & Despard, M. R. (2016, March). Characteristics and hardships associated with bank account ownership among Refund to Savings participants (CSD Research Brief No. 16-09). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.


Refund to Savings (R2S)


Refund to Savings (RS), assets, asset building, bank accounts, college debt, debt, Household Financial Survey (HFS), myRA, saving, tax, tax refunds, TurboTax Freedom Edition, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)