CalAccount Feasibility Study

RAND is examining the feasibility of the CalAccount Program, an initiative to create a financial platform for unbanked and underbanked Californians.

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Access to basic financial services, including checking and savings accounts, is a critical component of financial stability. However, according to data collected by the FDIC, 4.5% of U.S. households were underbanked and another 14.1% were underbanked in 2021.

What is CalAccount?

The California Public Banking Option Act established the CalAccount Blue Ribbon Commission and requires the Commission to deliver a market analysis to determine if it is feasible to implement a CalAccount Program. If implemented, the CalAccount Program would be established by the state to protect consumers who lack access to traditional banking services from potentially predatory, discriminatory, and costly alternatives.

Among other characteristics, the program would offer Californians access to a voluntary, zero-fee, zero-penalty, federally insured transaction account, known as a CalAccount, and related payment services at no cost to accountholders.

RAND’s CalAccount Feasibility Study

The California State Treasurer's Office selected RAND to carry out the feasibility study required by the legislation. RAND’s research activities include

  • conducting a survey of Californians who may be unbanked or underbanked
  • documenting fees charged by banks, credit unions, and alternative financial service providers (e.g., check cashing) market analysis of the landscape of banking options available to Californians
  • analyzing current and potential bank branch locations in relation to population demographics
  • analyzing the quantitative and qualitative cost and benefits of the CalAccount Program
  • analyzing the potential impacts of the program on historic disparities
  • assessing the feasibility of the CalAccount Program and requirements for its operations.

The feasibility study is currently underway, and findings will be made available in July 2024.

Study Leaders