Monday, December 11, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Minor trouble shouldn't mean long ban from banks

Banks are under no legal obligation to do business with people who have been financially irresponsible. Even so, the common practice of blacklisting customers who have made minor financial missteps and denying them access to basic banking is an abuse that hurts the economy, young adults and poor neighborhoods. It's up to consumer advocates and state regulators to push banks to adopt fairer rules.

Placement on a blacklist for bouncing checks or overdrawing on an account can last five years. That is a long time for people to have no access traditional banking and few options aside from expensive check cashing services and high-fee prepaid cards. The New York attorney general reached an agreement with Capital One last month to expand access to banking for customers who appear on the blacklist. Other banks should follow suit. Banks should not use vetting systems to shut out legitimate customers who deserve a second chance.

Some of the nation's largest banks and credit unions use ChexSystems, a national credit bureau that screens applicants who apply for checking or savings accounts. The database and others like it are designed to flag serial bad check writers and potentially fraudulent activity. But in addition to rooting out bad players, the system has tagged victims of identity theft, low-income people, students and young professionals who are just learning how to become financially independent. They include a 25-year-old who bounced checks in college but later repaid her bank, and a 36-year-old who makes six figures a year but cannot get a bank account because of past troubles.

More than a million Americans are blacklisted, according to the New York Times. New York has reached out to six banks, including Bank of America, Capital One and JPMorgan, and expressed concern that they might be "improperly denying or otherwise restricting banking access to New York consumers." But the problem is nationwide. New York's attorney general said Capital One has agreed to roll back some of its practices and pledged to stop trying to predict if applicants pose a credit risk for basic banking.

Financial institutions should not take advantage of consumers with brief financial troubles, especially when those people have repaid their debts. Banks should work with customers who have received what amounts to a financial scarlet letter for minor mismanagement. Providing credit counseling and creating products targeted at young and low-income earners are good places to start.

Consumers who want to do business with banks have a responsibility to carefully manage their money and seek help if they foresee trouble. Parents, schools and credit counselors also can play a role by ensuring that young people understand basic financial literacy. While balancing a checkbook may seem obsolete for today's consumers who rely on debit cards and ATMs, the ability to accurately track spending and income and understand interest rates remain important skills. Federal law allows consumers to receive a free copy of their credit report annually. The same is true for databases that record checking and savings account histories. Consumers should make acquiring both documents a part of their annual financial checkup.

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Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17