Profiting from the Unbanked

As check cashing booms and Wal-Mart looms, banks chase a group they once ignored

Manuel Llaneras for TIME

To verify customers' identity without U.S. ID, firms like Banuestra use fingerprints.

Aurelio Leonel Alvarez-Rosales earns about $300 a week painting houses in the sprawling suburbs north of Atlanta. He lives paycheck to paycheck and often has nothing left over at the end of each week. So on Friday nights, when Alvarez-Rosales, 21, goes to cash his check, he pulls into the parking lot at the Norcross branch of Banuestra, an alternative financial institution aimed at serving the estimated 40 million adults in the U.S. without bank accounts. For him, every dollar counts, and compared with the 24-hour Atlanta Check Cashers outlet down the road, which charges a 3% fee to cash a...

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