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Check Cashers and Banker's Discontinuance of Services

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Publication Date: February 2007

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RS22594

Topic: Banking and finance (Banking operations and services)

Abstract:

A check cashing enterprise is a fee-based business that will cash a customer's check without requiring an account relationship. The U.S. check cashing industry underwent a significant expansion in the 1990s. Customers are attracted by the immediate access to funds, availability of service without a bank account, and convenience of extended hours of operation. In general, the industry is viewed as a provider of valuable financial services to an under served market segment.

Check cashers are dependent on access to bank services to operate. Banks provide depository accounts, check collection and clearing operations, funds transfer, and access to lines of credit for liquidity purposes. Banks and check cashers are both subject to Bank Secrecy Act (BSA)1 regulations. The BSA is an anti-money laundering and antiterrorism financing statute. Federal regulators have cautioned banks that nonbank money service businesses (an umbrella term that includes check cashing enterprises) can present heightened money laundering risks. Consequently, some banks have discontinued their business relations with check cashers. The discontinuance of services to check cashers brought about complaints to regulators and increased lobbying of Congress. Bank regulators have issued guidance to clarify BSA compliance expectations. Congress held hearings on the concerns of banks and check cashers. This report will be updated as events and legislation warrant.