More than 14,000 commercial banks, savings institutions, and credit unions in the United States offer savings accounts to individuals – statement, passbook, and club accounts, money market deposit accounts, and for credit unions, share savings accounts. These liquid accounts represent savings options that are available in every American community and, in fact, are used by about three-fifths of all households nationwide. Historically, the accounts have played a particularly useful role in helping people start saving and in serving as an emergency fund for unexpected expenses.
These accounts have received relatively little attention from researchers, advocates, policymakers, and even the financial institutions themselves. They have infrequently been researched, evaluated, reported on, or even much discussed. From a consumer perspective, is this lack of attention deserved? The main purpose of this report is to explore this question with special attention to savings account use and usefulness by low and moderate income (LMI) households. It will do so by revealing the number and basic characteristics of households that use the accounts, describing the characteristics of the accounts, discussing the usefulness of the accounts, and suggesting ways in which these accounts could be more useful.