The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has initiated a pilot program to enable certain post office locations to offer expanded financial services to customers including check cashing, bill pay, and low-fee ATM access, as well as upgraded money orders and wire transfers. The USPS quietly began the pilot program on Sept 13 in Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, Maryland; Falls Church, Virginia; and the Bronx in New York City, and plan to expand the program to other locations in early 2022. At participating post offices, people can use payroll or business checks up to $500 to buy single-use VISA gift cards, pay bills, and access a low fee ATM.
Although it’s just a pilot in a few markets, the effort could signal a return to the postal banking system that was once popular in the U.S., making financial services more accessible to millions of Americans. A University of Michigan study published in May 2021 found 69% of census tracts that have a post office do not have a community bank branch.
Postal banking is not a new idea. It was a popular option in the U.S. from 1911 to 1967, and it continues to be popular in other countries. As of 2018, 91% of postal organizations worldwide offered banking services, according to the American Postal Workers Union (APWU). In today’s uncertain times, the idea is seeing renewed support in the U.S.
Mark Dimondstein, president of APWU, said in an interview with NBC News:
“We view expanded services as a win for the people of the country; a win for the Postal Service itself, because it will bring in new revenue; and, of course, a win for the postal workers who are extremely dedicated to the mission.”