More on the High Cost of Being Poor

Two recent, related posts about surcharges faced by the working poor.

Andrew Leonard, writing at Salon, discusses debit cards. Which, outside of California, can expire if not used. Wal-Mart plans to stop cutting checks for employees who don’t have direct deposit and give them debt cards. The cards will incur fees for checking balances as well as for transactions.

Over at Slacktivist, Wal-Mart doesn’t fair any better. The company is now going to charge $3 to cash checks, which is lower fees than charged elsewhere, but still that’s $3 that someone who is working poor could had used to pay utilities. And over the course of a year that fee adds up to what might be a dentist or medical co-pay.

Slacktivist points out that check cashing fees and debit cards are two symptoms of a lack of affordable banking services for the working poor. Nobody, it seems, is interested in serving that market. Back when banks were local, they would at least offer things like passbook savings, and in Europe and Japan, there are the Postal Banking systems that the poor and middle class use.