JPMorgan Chase will overhaul customer screening procedures to let more low-income consumers open checking and savings accounts under an agreement announced Tuesday with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
As part of the deal, JPMorgan will also let its Chase Liquid Card customers use the prepaid card to pay bills online without a fee, or have the bank mail a check for the bills.
"These new actions on the part of Chase Bank will help expand access to low-cost financial services," Schneiderman said in a news release.
JPMorgan had been planning to update its Chase Liquid Card "for some time" and the company shares Schneiderman's "commitment to bringing the benefits of mainstream banking to more" households, a spokesman said.
JPMorgan uses the consumer reporting agency Early Warning Systems to screen potential customers. The system had previously excluded many customers who previously had overdrawn accounts but have now paid off the debts, or who had a past bankruptcy.
Capital One, Citigroup and Santander use the consumer reporting agency ChexSystems for customer screening. Those three banks agreed to scale back their use of ChexSystems in screening potential customers.
Many low-income consumers have been denied bank accounts on the basis of account abuses reported by Early Warning Systems and ChexSystems. Those agencies have included overdrafts as a type of abuse, which tends to have a bigger effect on young people with lower incomes, said Susan Weinstock, director of the consumer banking project at Pew Charitable Trusts.
"Too many customers have been pushed out of the system because of overdrafts, particularly through use of bank debit cards used at point of sale and ATMs," she said. "Once consumers have been pushed out, they ... may have trouble getting another account for many years."
Schneiderman launched an initiative in 2013 to expand financial access to unbanked consumers who don't have a bank account and underbanked consumers who rely on alternative finance and payments outlets that come with hefty fees.
The most recent data by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. shows that 7.7% of U.S. households, about 9.6 million, were unbanked in 2013, and that 20%, about 24.8 million, were underbanked.