About a year before Councilman Jerry Allen started taking on payday loan and car title businesses via city ordinances, he worked with the city to launch Bank On Dallas, an initiative spreading to cities nationwide that is geared toward “unbanked residents” — people who would normally turn to payday loan and check cashing institutions (often one and the same) as their “financial institution,” a practice that costs them an estimated $800 a year, Allen says.
“Banks take a depositor’s money, and because of that they have a fiduciary responsibility to the depositors to be responsible with the money,” Allen says.”Payday lenders use their own capital; they do not have deposits that come in. They’re raping you, and you don’t even know they’re raping you.”
Seventeen banks and four credit unions have signed onto the project, and they provide support both by funding marketing efforts and by opening no- or low-cost checking accounts for people who have no banking history. One interesting result is the new-found alliance of normally competing banks.
“Chase and Wells Fargo and Compass are all in competition, but in this case we have to work as a team,” Allen says.
The main goal is to help people transition to “traditional banking,” Allen says, which hopefully will be a segue for taking out loans from banks rather than payday loan and car title establishments. Though banks typically have a minimum loan threshold in the thousands, the Bank On Dallas partnerships mean that banks and credit unions know each others’ practices, so “Wells Fargo may limit to no less than $3,000 but refer to another team member at ABC credit union,” Allen says.
The other goal of Bank On Dallas is financial literacy, and nonprofits such as United Way, YWCA and Catholic Charities work toward this part of the effort.
“The last thing you want to do is take them out of one frying pan and put them in another,” Allen says.
The aim of Bank On Dallas when it launched last summer was to open 25,000 new accounts within two years. By March of this year, almost 14,000 accounts had been opened.
Already on Back Talk Lake Highlands: Councilman Jerry Allen attempts to fight payday loan and car title businesses with city ordinances. Coming soon: the way other cities are following Dallas’ lead, and why this issue is important to Allen.