The United States Postal Service (USPS) rolled out a paycheck-cashing service at a few post offices last month, according to reporting from The Washington Post.
According to the article, customers of post offices in Washington, Baltimore, Falls Church, Va., and the Bronx can cash paychecks in exchange for Visa gift cards up to $500.
The pilot effort is expected to broaden into a more comprehensive study with additional locations and financial products, including bill-paying services and ATMs.
The USPS’s foray into financial services offerings has been sought for some time. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) voiced support for a public banking program through the USPS back in 2014.
At the time, Warren called on the Postal Service to offer basic banking services, such as bill paying, check cashing and small-dollar loans to “provide affordable financial services for underserved families and, at the same time, shore up its own financial footing.”
The Postal Service has been eyed for some time as the answer to the millions of Americans who are either unbanked or underbanked (meaning they have some basic banking services but are not using the full suite of financial services available to the average consumer).
An estimated 27 percent of American adults fall into one of these two categories.
Adding banking services to the post office has long been supported by Democrats as a government-backed alternative to check-cashing stores and payday lenders, which charge high fees and interest rates.
“To be honest, these are pretty modest steps,” an agency spokesperson said. “It’s a small toe in the water. I think [the Postal Service] is just trying to see what kind of bite they’re going to get. It’s the symbolism that matters.”
The Postal Service began the pilot on Sept. 13 in collaboration with the American Postal Workers Union, agency spokesman David Partenheimer said.
The program “is an example of how the Postal Service is leveraging its vast retail footprint and resources to innovate. Offering new products and services that are affordable, convenient, and secure aligns with the Postal Service’s Delivering for America 10-year plan to achieve financial sustainability and service excellence,” Partenheimer said.