January 1, 2011

Initiative set for 'unbanked'

Morning Sentinel Staff

AUGUSTA -- Maine's banking industry and regulators have started a "Bank on ME" working group.

Established by the Legislature, the new initiative is designed to help "the unbanked" save and protect their money through low- or no-cost accounts at banks and credit unions.

"The unbanked" are individuals without an account at a credit union or bank, Bureau of Financial Institutions Superintendent Lloyd P. LaFountain III said.

Many of these people "pay expensive charges for check cashing and other services from storefront operations," he said, highlighting three actions being finalized:

* A trifold publication, to be available online explaining what's needed to open an account, defining overdraft and other terms and providing a checklist;

* an online consumer library with resources for individuals who have never dealt with a financial institution, accessed through the "Consumer Tools" menu at www.maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions; and

* a consumer outreach specialist available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, to assist anyone interested in opening a bank account, at 1 (800) 965-5235.

The brochure will be available Monday by calling 1 (800) 965-5235 or 624-8570.

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