How to Live without a Bank Account

On the surface, it appears impossible to live without using a bank account, especially in this day and age. We all know that personal finances are so much easier with a bank account, but some people have reasons for living without one. For example, it could be a temporary solution for people while they clear up identity theft problems or other issues with banks. Or it could be due to the mistrust in traditional banking systems, what with financial depression looming in the distance. Either way, it helps to know that it’s possible to function without a bank account!

So, can you live without a bank account? Yes, you can. The banking system hasn’t existed since the start of civilization, and people have managed their finances without it. Nevertheless, a solid argument comes to mind – is this applicable in today’s modern period?

People living in rural areas only sometimes rely on bank accounts, even though they carry on mass transactions, buy and sell items, and even receive and offer loans – all without a banking channel. You might wonder how. Let’s take a look:

Prepaid Debit Cards

With prepaid cards, you can do many things you would otherwise be able to do with a debit card associated with a checking account. So, rather than having a bank account, you can load your funds to your card and spend that money. The primary differences between prepaid cards and bank accounts are as follows:

  • Unlike bank accounts, you don’t need a minimum balance to open or maintain a prepaid card.
  • There aren’t any credit checks on prepaid cards; since they are prepaid, no borrowing is involved.
  • You will not be able to spend more money than what you have on your prepaid card. So, getting into debt by using it or incurring overdraft fees like you would with a bank account is impossible.

Remember that some prepaid cards have a monthly maintenance charge in addition to other fees, so ensure that you read the terms and conditions. Whatever reasons you may have for not having a bank account, you do not want to get sucked into unfavorable terms through a prepaid card!


A great alternative to traditional banks is cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. The most significant advantage that comes with it is that there is no centralized system, and Bitcoin does not have a head office where the government can go and seize your account. Besides, Bitcoin accounts are numbered and can be passed on to another account holder just by giving them the password. While it’s not possible to pay for things in Bitcoin, like, for example, rent or utilities, you can use services to exchange your Bitcoin for cash and then use it for your expenses.

Everyday Spending

Our world is not entirely cashless, so old-fashioned cash payments are very much still applicable in areas such as transportation, food, gas, and the like. However, the only issue is that carrying cash around can be a safety issue. And if you happen to lose it, you might never get it back!

Another potential challenge to using only cash is that acquiring or withdrawing physical money is only possible if it’s from an ATM, which you need a bank account to access.

Paying Bills without a Bank Account

Paying by cash is not always an option, especially for utility companies, insurers, phone companies, or subscription services, which usually request payment by card, ACH transfer from a bank account, or check. Some billers allow in-person payment, but making the trip every month is burdensome and near impossible if there is no local office.

So, what’s the alternative? You can call and ask your billers if there’s any place in your locality where you can pay in person. Local service centers, convenience stores, and supermarkets allow payment through Western Union agents. If you have to mail in a payment, you will have to use a money order made payable to the biller rather than cash.

However, if you have prepaid cards, settling bills is more accessible and less expensive since many prepaid cards offer online bill payments!

Cashing Checks

If you get paid by check but don’t own a bank account, you only have a few limited ways to cash it out. The best way to do it would be to have a look at the check writer’s bank. For instance, if the check is drawn on an account at the Bank of America, you will have to take it to a Bank of America branch to cash it. Sometimes, you might be required to pay a fee if you’re not an account holder.

Other alternatives would be to use a retail store like Walmart that will cash a check for you. Or you could sign the check over to a friend in case you owe them money or ask them to withdraw the cash and hand it over to you!

Sending & Receiving Money

Many nonbank options exist for sending and receiving money without the need for a bank account or prepaid debit card. Some apps like PayPal, Venmo, and Square are generally free to use for person-to-person payments, but you will need to have a way of funding the amount. Typically, this means linking a bank account to the online service, but prepaid cards are usually accepted in case of a lack of the former.

Final Thoughts

There are millions of people out there who do not have a bank account, either because they don’t trust the system or because they have difficulties opening an account. This is true for people who are new to the country, like international students, migrant workers, or those who don’t meet the basic requirements for a bank account due to having a poor credit history. At first glance, it appears that there aren’t many alternatives for such people other than having to stash their cash under the bed. But that is far from the truth. So, knowing that there are different ways to live without a bank account can certainly be helpful!

However, it is always advisable to maintain a bank account because there are undeniable benefits in doing so. It protects your money and gives you peace of mind, knowing it is stored safely!