Basic Banking

Dear New Yorker:

If you are concerned about not being able to afford to open and maintain a bank account, you are not alone. Many consumers have encountered difficulties obtaining certain financial services because they cannot meet a financial institution’s requirements. This is particularly troublesome in situations where, for example, seniors cannot cash their social security checks because they do not have a bank account, nor can they afford the minimum obligations to open one.

Fortunately, a State law was enacted in 1994 that requires banks to offer lower cost banking services. All banking institutions in the State, including commercial banks, savings banks and credit unions, are required to offer "basic banking" accounts, commonly known as "Lifeline accounts" to any and all customers.

As the cost to maintain a checking account continues to rise and consolidation in the banking industry provides fewer choices for consumers, Lifeline Banking becomes more important than ever.

This card contains a brief description of what a Lifeline Account should provide to you. If you are having difficulty finding a banking institution that will open a Lifeline account, We encourage you to contact our office by calling our consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.

                               Office of the New York Attorney General


  • Opening an Account: You can open your Lifeline account with a deposit of only $25.
  • Minimum Balance: To keep the account open, you will need only one penny on deposit as a minimum balance.
  • Maintaining Your Account: Your financial institution cannot charge you more than $3 per month to maintain your Lifeline account.
  • Free Withdrawals: You can make withdrawals from your Lifeline account at least eight times per month at no charge.
  • No Monthly Minimum Deposit: Your Lifeline Account will have no restrictions or penalties as to the minimum number of deposits you make per month.

Although these bank accounts offer significant savings to consumers, your financial institution may require you to make direct deposits of your social security, wage or pension payments. You also may be required to close any other transaction accounts.