Access to Banking Services

Accessing basic banking services, such as checking and savings accounts, is the first step towards financial security. Woodstock Institute works to ensure that all communities have sustainable, affordable basic banking options.

Woodstock Institute Theory of Change graphic
April 20, 2016

In this first part of our Theory of Change series of blog posts and images, Woodstock President Dory Rand explains the ways in which Woodstock Institute is working to achieve our mission of creating a just financial system in which lower-wealth people and communities, and people and communities of color, can achieve economic security and community prosperity. In this series, our research and policy staff will discuss the strategies we use to effect positive, lasting financial systems change. 

March 15, 2016
Woodstock expresses deep concerns over the closure of Chase Bank's closure of a branch in West Garfield Park, a majority minority, low-income community. Woodstock believes that the completeness and substance of the answers we received from Chase in regards to this closure are unsatisfactory and...
Illinois State Capitol Building
March 1, 2016

Illinois’s legislative session is in full swing, and Woodstock is monitoring many bills that fall within the scope of our mission: to create a just financial system in which lower-wealth persons and communities as well as people and communities of color can achieve economic security and prosperity.  Here are some of the bills that we are supporting this session.

January 4, 2016

By Peter Rudegeair, Emily Glazer, and Ruth Simon

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. spent about $8 billion this year on technology. But when it came to developing a new online loan for small business, the bank turned to an unlikely outsider.

December 9, 2015

Over the past year, Woodstock has expanded the work it has done to promote greater access to safe and affordable credit for small businesses, building on our 2014 report, Discredited: Disparate Access to Credit for Businesses in the Chicago Six County Region.  That report examined lending by large banks to businesses in lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color, specifically small loans that are most likely to go to locally-owned, neighborhood businesses that provide jobs to local residents.  The analysis of lending patterns showed that businesses in those neighborhoods were much less likely to have received loans from large banks than businesses in more affluent, predominantly white neighborhoods.

November 3, 2015

On November 3, Jody Blaylock from IABG and Spencer Cowan from Woodstock Institute hosted a webinar on the findings of our new report, No Right Turn: Illinois' Auto Title Loan Industry and Its Impact on Consumer.

October 27, 2015

CHICAGO – A new report by Woodstock Institute and the Illinois Asset Building Group (IABG) finds that increasing numbers of Illinois consumers are ending up in a long-term cycle of debt due to triple-digit interest rates and long loan terms as they turn to title loans to try to make ends meet.

August 4, 2015

Last week marked the 25th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). This act made discrimination against people with disabilities illegal and ensured that the proper accommodations are made for people with disabilities in employment, government services, public and commercial facilities, and transportation. People with disabilities make up about 20 percent of the United States population, according to 2012 census data. The ADA has made it easier for people with disabilities to live their lives and be self-sufficient, but the battle for full economic inclusion is ongoing. 

July 10, 2015
This letter comments on the New York State Department of Labor’s proposed rule addressing permissible methods of payment, specifically payroll debit cards. The letter supports the Department’s effort to ensure workers’ wages are protected by instituting strong protections for payroll cards....
July 2, 2015
This comment letter responds to the U.S. Department of Education’s request for suggested revisions to its Cash Management Rule. Woodstock Institute suggests that the rule be made stronger to protect students from financial product that can negatively affect their finances. To further help students...
June 25, 2015

We had a vibrant discussion in Chicago recently on barriers facing women trying to access mortgage and small business credit and ways to support women’s efforts to build wealth. Woodstock Institute and JPMorgan Chase hosted a forum for about one hundred participants from the nonprofit, banking, and government sectors on June 19. Melissa Bean, Midwest Chair for Chase, and I welcomed the group and kicked off the event.

May 26, 2015

By John Heltman

BALTIMORE — Even as the smoke was clearing from the riots that erupted in the streets of Baltimore late last month, policymakers zeroed in on the root causes of the unrest in the blighted neighborhoods that were most affected — lack of jobs, lack of opportunity, and a lack of investment.

February 20, 2015
This letter to the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency comments on the proposed merger between CIT Group and OneWest Bank. The merger highlights several issues that should be addressed before completed. The first issue is that the merger would create a Systematically...
January 23, 2015
Small businesses in low-income, majority minority neighborhoods in the Chicago area were less likely to receive loans between 2008 and 2012, according to a report from the Woodstock Institute, recipient of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. The report, which examines...
September 3, 2014
We need your help now to make sure that public benefits recipients can save for the future.
August 20, 2014

By Sarah Needleman

7:20 EDT - Amid a slow recovery in US small-business lending, a report out today suggests that small firms in low-income communities are struggling the most. Between 2008 and 2012, small businesses in such neighborhoods in the Chicago metro area received $817M less than their share of overall business credit, reports Woodstock Institute, a nonprofit that analyzed data from Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, US Census and Department of Housing and Urban Development. "Just like the housing recovery, it's not even," says the study's author, Spencer Cowan. "If we have areas that are not growing, those will slow down the recovery for the entire nation." (; @saraheneedleman)

August 19, 2014

Lack of access to credit could limit economic opportunity in disinvested communities

CHICAGO—There are significant disparities with respect to both race and neighborhood income in access to credit for businesses in the Chicago six county region, a new report from Woodstock Institute found. From 2008 to 2012, the business loan gap (that is, the difference between the total amount of loans made and proportional distribution of loans) in majority minority communities was estimated to be nearly $1.5 billion, and the gap in low-income communities exceeded an estimated $817 million.

Read the report

August 19, 2014

This report examines geographic patterns of access to bank capital for businesses in the Chicago six county region, with a focus on smaller loans and other types of credit, amounts under $1 million, that are more likely to benefit smaller, local businesses that create economic opportunity within neighborhoods. For small neighborhood businesses to grow, they need to be able to access capital, and one common source of capital for small businesses are loans, lines of credit, and business credit cards (collectively, “small loans”) issued by banks and other financial institutions.


August 11, 2014

By Herb Weisbaum

Checking accounts—and the debit cards that come with them—should be a simple and straightforward way to handle routine financial transactions. And yet, many people simply don't understand the overdraft policies at their bank or credit union.

August 6, 2014

Chicago – Today, Governor Pat Quinn signed HB 5622, legislation instituting strong consumer protections for Illinois workers who receive their wages on payroll cards. Sponsored by Sen. Kwame Raoul and Rep. Art Turner, and championed by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the bill passed with bi-partisan support during the spring legislative session and, with the Governor’s signature, will now become law. Woodstock Institute and its partners in the Illinois Asset Building Group advocated for the expansion of consumer protections for payroll cards.

August 5, 2014

By Kevin Wack

For the last four years, U.S. regulators have been requiring banks to offer their customers a choice on overdraft fees. And in response, most consumers have opted not to run the risk of incurring large fees in exchange for the ability to spend more than they have.

August 4, 2014

Results of mystery shopping conducted by Woodstock Institute and allies in four cities across the country reveal that banks often provide confusing and inaccurate information to consumers about overdraft programs and fees for checking accounts. The report released today by California Reinvestment Coalition of Oakland, CA; New Economy Project of New York City, NY; Reinvestment Partners of Durham, NC; and Woodstock Institute of Chicago, IL, calls on federal banking regulators and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to strengthen consumer protections for all overdraft products and improve oversight of banks who offer overdraft products.

August 1, 2014

This report investigated whether large banks provide accurate and full information on overdraft products and services (“overdraft”); whether the information varied based on a person’s race, ethnicity, or gender, or based on neighborhood; and whether the information was provided without undue pressure or steering to costly products.


July 17, 2014

Access to affordable banking services helps people build wealth, but some persistent barriers deter consumers from opening or keeping a bank account. In the Pew Charitable Trusts’ recent report entitled Overdrawn: Persistent Confusion and Concern About Bank Overdraft Practices , based on a nationally representative survey of American adults, the authors found that 13 percent of people who paid an overdraft penalty say they no longer have a checking account; 19 percent report responding to overdraft fees by discontinuing overdraft coverage; and 28 percent report closing a checking account in response to overdraft fees. 

June 9, 2014

The spring Illinois legislative session just came to an end. Here are highlights of what happened in Springfield on issues affecting wealth-building opportunities for Illinoisans:

June 6, 2014

The House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee last week called for an end to a critical Department of Justice (DOJ) anti-fraud investigation called “Operation Choke Point.” Eliminating the operation could hamper DOJ’s ability to prevent the financial abuse of some of the most financially vulnerable consumers.

June 5, 2014

Last year, thousands of consumers filed complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regarding financial products. In Illinois, complaints from consumers focused on mortgage services, banking services, credit cards, and other critical services.

Tags: cfpb
May 28, 2014

You may have heard about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), but what can it do for you and your constituents?

May 27, 2014
Parents whose financial standing disqualify them from most loans may have an easier time borrowing to pay their children’s college costs under a U.S. government proposal to ease credit standards.
May 27, 2014
Parents whose financial standing disqualify them from most loans may have an easier time borrowing to pay their children’s college costs under a U.S. government proposal to ease credit standards.