What is a Lifeline Account?

Lifeline accounts are offered by some banks, and are required in some states to be offered by all banks — they give low-income individuals an opportunity to bank without paying fees or observing a minimum balance. This is done in an effort to promote social mobility by giving everyone access to banking services.

You are likely to be able to find a bank that offers free checking accounts anyway, but some states have mandated that banks allow for so-called “lifeline accounts,” which have fewer features than other checking accounts but which may be the only banking option available for low-income banking customers.

This allows lower income people to use checking accounts to make life a little easier. These accounts might not allow for more than a few checks to be written a month, but there will be a low or nonexistent minimum balance in the account and low-or-no fees to pay for having the account.

Some banks charge monthly rates for all of their checking accounts, or will charge a fee if the balance drops below a certain level, but this has gradually given way to competition and cheap online banking options.

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