In Depth

Mapping Financial Opportunity

An exploration of the distribution of mainstream and alternative financial services in the U.S.
Photo: Shutterstock

The Mapping Financial Opportunity (MFO) project examines trends in the locations of financial services in communities across the United States. These locations include mainstream financial services (i.e., bank and credit union branches) as well as alternative financial services (AFS; i.e., storefront payday lenders, check cashers, and pawn shops). We explore four key questions about the locations of financial services that are important for financial inclusion efforts in the United States: Where are financial services located? What is the ratio of alternative to mainstream financial services? In select cities, where are financial services located in relation to their residents’ race and poverty? And are financial inclusion efforts led by nonprofit and government organizations filling gaps in access to financial services? Continue reading...



Access to financial services is necessary to fully participate in the 21st century economy.

Where are Financial Services Located?

One way to understand access to financial services is to uncover the locations of banks, credit unions, payday lenders, and post offices.

What is the Ratio of Alternative to Mainstream Financial Services?

The ratio of alternative to mainstream financial services—the relative mix of services—varies considerably in counties throughout the U.S.

Do Metropolitan Areas have Equal Access to Financial Services?

Each city has a unique financial services landscape that is defined in part by population demographics such as race and poverty.

Where are Other Financial Inclusion Efforts Located?

Nonprofit and government efforts are aiming to improve access to safe and affordable financial services in communities across the U.S.