WASHINGTON (8/11/10)--To encourage banks to offer unbanked and under-banked households affordable basic banking services, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) will launch a pilot program to test offering safe, low-cost transactional and savings accounts to low- and moderate-income consumers. At its open board meeting Tuesday, the FDIC approved a one-year plan for the “Model Safe Accounts Pilot” and encouraged banks to submit applications to become one of nine institutions the agency will choose to be in the test program. Under the pilot, according to an FDIC announcement, participating institutions will offer electronic deposit accounts with product features identified in the FDIC Model Safe Accounts Template (see resource link). Accounts offered by pilot institutions will be FDIC-insured, have “reasonable” rates and fees that are “proportional to their cost,” and be subject to applicable consumer protection laws, regulations and guidance. Participating institutions may not charge fees for non-sufficient funds or overdrafts for these accounts. Citing its 2009 “National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households,” the FDIC said that more than one-quarter of U.S. households are underserved; 7.7% lack any banking relationship and 17.9% percent are "underbanked," which means that they have bank accounts but rely on non-bank alternative financial services. Minorities and lower-income households are much more likely to be underserved. The FDIC added that one in five households earning under $30,000 are unbanked, and these households comprise over 70% of the unbanked total. Many credit unions provide a wide range of financial products and services to low-wealth consumers through REAL Solutions, the signature program of the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF). In fact, NCUF research shows that two of the most popular REAL Solutions products are savings programs for emerging low-wealth markets. Figures from one year ago show 81% of REAL Solutions credit union were providing special savings accounts for youth from ages 11 to 17 total 81%; and about 68% were providing or planning to offer comprehensive savings programs, including financial education to help low-wealth members save and build wealth. Use the resource links for more.