Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Community Development

From Cashing Checks to Building Assets: A Case Study of the Check Cashing/Credit Union Hybrid Service Model

Author(s):

January 2013

Community Development Working Papers

This case study examines the pilot effort of Community Trust Prospera (CT Prospera), a division of Self-Help Federal Credit Union, to combine the accessible services of a check-casher with the longer-term depository and lending relationship opportunities of a mainstream financial institution. CT Prospera is based upon the “micro branch” business model, which centers around a retail branch that has a small physical footprint, similar to a check cashing outlet, and is designed to create an inviting, safe, and accessible environment for clients who may not feel comfortable entering a traditional bank branch. The micro branch model aims to meet the immediate financial service needs of unbanked and underbanked individuals by providing the transparent and convenient transactional services they need, such as check cashing, money orders, and remittances. Unlike a traditional check cashing outlet, however, CT Prospera is a full-service credit union and is able to transition these customers into depository and credit accounts, thereby bringing them into the financial mainstream.

This report summarizes information gathered from stakeholder interviews and data from CT Prospera’s first two years of operation. While the pilot is still underway and new findings are constantly emerging, this report is intended to capture lessons learned thus far and provide an informational resource for any organizations that are interested in learning from the model. 

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