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.

April 15, 2014

The Illinois House last week took the first step towards ensuring that workers who receive their wages on payroll cards are protected from deceptive fees that can eat away at their earnings.

Data portal graph
April 14, 2014

Nearly a year ago, Woodstock launched our online data portal in order to deliver meaningful data on the Chicago six county region for our community partners in a user-friendly way.

March 7, 2014
An Oak Brook-based community bank that runs a successful motorcycle lending business has received the lowest possible rating from a federal regulator on its community lending track record.
March 6, 2014

U.S. Bank announced earlier this year it intended to purchase Chicago-area branches of RBS Citizens/Charter One Bank.

December 2, 2013

I recently read an eye-opening book entitled “Scarcity: Why Having So Little Matters So Much,” by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir. It’s about how scarcity of time, money, food, and sleep affects our brains, creating a tunnel vision.

November 15, 2013

Ten mortgages to African Americans in 2012. Zero bank branches in low-income communities or communities of color. And below-peer-level lending to low-income communities in all of its assessment areas.

November 12, 2013
This letter urges the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis to carefully consider how the proposed acquisition of Midland States Bancorp, Inc. to acquire Heartland Bank would create a public benefit, especially for low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities and communities of color that historically...
October 23, 2013

This policy brief looks at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) online consumer complaint database and compares Illinois complaints by issue and product with the national complaint data. Using data from the CFPB’s July 2013 report and Illinois complaint data from June of 2011 through August 15, 2013, this brief looks at how consumers submitted complaints to the CFPB, which financial products received the most complaints, what the biggest issues were under each broad category of complaint, and which financial institutions received the most complaints. 

October 14, 2013

Chicagoans had an opportunity last week to voice their concerns about different types of consumer credit to the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Richard Cordray.

September 24, 2013

For our 40th anniversary, we have secured some incredible keynote speakers you’re sure to enjoy. From a range of backgrounds and expertise, our speakers will make you think differently about the work you do every day.

September 24, 2013

We have a unique opportunity to tell the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) our concerns at a hearing CFPB will hold in Chicago on October 2.

Ventra Cards
June 5, 2013

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) recently announced positive changes to the general purpose reloadable (GPR) feature of the CTA’s new Ventra transit card after receiving pressure from consumer advocacy groups

May 17, 2013
This letter to the Federal Reserve, OCC, and FDIC supports several provisions of the Interagency Q&A Regarding Community Investment. The letter notes several concerns about the Q&A and identifies several areas where CRA needs to be updated.
March 13, 2013
Sign-on letter Sen. Mark Kirk asking him to confirm Richard Cordray as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Delaying his confirmation because of political brinksmanship would harm consumers, introduce destructive uncertainty into the financial system, and allow predatory...
January 31, 2012
By Becky Yerak January 31, 2012     Luz Pagan, 45, has been working as a part-time cashier at a discount store in downtown Chicago for nearly three years, her requests to become a full-time employee with benefits having gone nowhere.   The single mom and her 12-year-old son, Marvin, have been...
October 5, 2011
By Megan Cottrell October 5, 2011   Late last week, Bank of America made an announcement: they're going to start charging their customers $5 a month to use their debit cards.   Needless to say, the response wasn't positive. Bank of America serves about 1 out of every 2 Americans, and nobody seems...
October 2, 2011
By Bernie Tafoya October 2, 2011   With Bank of America announcing it plans to charge customers $5 a month for using their debit cards, consumers of other banks wonder if it’s only a matter of time before they’re going to face charges too. But there are alternatives.   As WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie...
September 8, 2011

As you may know, Capital One recently applied to regulators to acquire ING Direct. The deal would create the fifth-largest bank in the country and raises substantial concerns about how the deal would impact communities.

August 6, 2011
  By Sarah Ostman August 6, 2011   A nonprofit organization specializing in economic development released “report cards” Thursday for several West Side banks, ranking their commitment to lending within Austin, keeping homeowners out of foreclosure, and supporting projects that promote employment...
July 23, 2011
By Becky Yerak July 23, 2011   On the sixth floor of Diamond Bank's headquarters on the outskirts of Woodfield Mall, Chief Executive Matt Gambs tells how he once had visions of building his Schaumburg-based thrift into a $500 million-asset institution.   It peaked at about $300 million but has...
May 26, 2011

In response to pressure from a customer backed by consumer and disability rights advocates, Chase Bank announced on May 13 that it would not impose its $12 monthly fee on basic checking account customers with direct deposits of at least $500 per month in aggregate from Social Security payments. This change could save customers with disabilities millions of dollars a year.

May 3, 2011

Bankruptcy filers in African-American neighborhoods choose potentially risky Chapter 13 more often than filers in white communities
Women in Cook County’s African-American neighborhoods file for bankruptcy at a disproportionately high rate, a new report from Woodstock Institute found. The report also found that bankruptcy filers in African-American communities are far more likely to choose Chapter 13 bankruptcy over Chapter 7, a trend that may indicate limited economic benefits of the bankruptcy process to filers in these communities.

April 5, 2011
April 5, 2011 CHICAGO – Today, as part of national Money Smart Week®, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) Brent Adams announce the launch of a state-wide effort to help working families improve their financial futures with “Illinois Saves...
March 10, 2011
By Maya Jackson Randall March 10, 2011 The fight over federal efforts to rein in financial firms' debit card processing fees continued Thursday, with bank officials presenting their case to Federal Reserve Board members and retailers rallying in the rain outside of the U.S. Capitol. At the Federal...
March 9, 2011
By Mary Ann Meyers March 9, 2011 A bipartisan movement is picking up steam in Springfield to repeal a law that cuts or eliminates unemployment benefits for thousands of Illinois seniors. One of those seniors is Nancy Solomon, a Chicago writer who says she has worked all her life and paid into...
February 14, 2011
By Diane Eastabrook February 14, 2011 SUSIE GHARIB: Eighteen American banks have failed so far this year and all were small, community banks. Local banks are the lifeblood of inner city neighborhoods and small towns, but many have been pummeled in the recession because of bad real estate loans. In...
January 12, 2011
By Becky Yerak January 12, 2011 Twenty-three Kmart stores in Illinois and three other markets are testing financial centers where consumers can cash checks and pay bills. Kmart joins Wal-Mart in offering basic services to consumers who have little if any access to traditional banks. "We're looking...
December 22, 2010

Lack of credit availability is a key concern for the housing market recovery. As we discussed in our latest report, lenders are tightening standards as foreclosures and other recession-related negative credit events are taking a hit on many borrowers’ credit scores. For example, the Federal Housing Administration recently changed their policy so that they will only insure loans to borrowers with a credit score of 580 or higher for their standard lending program. However, reports have shown that some FHA-approved lenders are requiring even higher standards for FHA loans. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition, on whose board our president Dory Rand sits, is taking issue with that practice. NCRC recently filed fair housing complaints with federal regulators alleging that many top FHA lenders have underwriting policies that disparately restrict people of color from access to credit.

December 14, 2010

As the end of the year approaches, several thinkers around the Web are reflecting on the meaning of an event that deeply impacted the Chicago region and beyond: the closure of ShoreBank and its rebirth under a new management team as Urban Partnership Bank. We released a statement after ShoreBank’s closure commending the bank for playing a crucial role in supporting affordable housing in Chicago and expressing our hopes that Urban Partnership will carry on that legacy. Here’s what others are saying:

November 19, 2010

Our latest report analyzing credit score patterns in Illinois found some troubling facts:  54 percent of individuals in highly African-American communities had credit scores below 620, while that figure is only 16.5 percent in predominantly white communities. Furthermore, 43.3 percent of individuals in highly African-American communities had a credit score below 580, compared to 11.5 percent in predominantly white communities. The concentration of low credit scores in communities of color raises concerns about the prospects for economic recovery in those neighborhoods, since credit scores are becoming increasingly important in more walks of life. Not only will it be more difficult to access affordable home, small business, and car loans, but having low or no credit scores can impact the availability of rental housing, affordable utilities and insurance, and even employment. Given these challenges, what can be done to improve opportunities in Illinois’ communities of color?