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6 Ways You Can Live Without a Bank Account

Millennials are once again throwing the financial industry for a loop. And, contrary to a now infamous millionaire’s opinion, it’s not because they are spending $19 on avocado toast.

If you’ve been reading the news lately, although it’s almost comical because seems like millennials are to blame for everything, the truth is millennials are doing things differently than past generations.

More specifically, more millennials are choosing the unbanked lifestyle. Here are some of the ways to live without a bank account.


In 2014, Bankrate published their now famous study that state how 63 percent of millennials were opting out of using credit cards. The same study found that they preferred cash, debit cards or prepaid cards.

The reasoning was pretty simple. Many felt that they had enough debt to deal with in the form of student loans and didn’t want to run the risk of getting further in the hole.

Needless to say, the study spread like wildfire across the financial world. They published an update in 2016 and it would seem not much has changed.

This was the case for Michelle Jackson of MichelleisMoneyHungry.com. After running into some issues with debt, she chose to go cash-only.

“Focusing on a cash budget helped me begin the process of paying off those credit cards and I learned how to get what I wanted through financial discipline and focus. Debt wasn’t necessary anymore (or wanted),” she said.

Living cash only is probably the easiest way to remain debt free and live without a bank account at the same time. However, a problem may arise when you need to take out a loan. Since they didn’t build credit, it’s unlikely they’ll get approved or they will be ridden with high interest rates.


What’s even more fascinating about millennials is they may not want to use credit, but almost half of them wouldn’t have a problem using cryptocurrency like Bitcoin which isn’t even paper money as we know it, but digital currency.

It’s also another way to live without a bank account.

Crypotcurrencies can help the unbanked in several ways. First, everything is online so it’s easily accessible. Additionally, cryptocurrency like BitCoin makes it easy to transfer money without it costing an arm and a leg. There are even Bitcoin debt cards you can use to make VISA payments using cryptocurrency!

John Rampton, founder of Due.com both invests in cryptocurrency and uses it to make purchases.

“I have recently gotten into using Bitcoin to purchase things on purse.io – basically allowing me to purchase anything on Amazon. I also buy things off overstock as well,” he says. Additionally, John uses Bitcoin at local coffee shops and uses it to buy gift cards.

Prepaid Cards

Prepaid debit cards are a good way to live without a bank account because they don’t actually require you to open one. All you have to do is “load” the money on to the card and then you use whatever money is in there. Just don’t make sure to go over or you’ll go into debt.

They also make shopping safer. Some would even argue that prepaid cards are safer than debit cards because they aren’t attached to a bank account. That means that if a store has a security breach, the criminals will only be able to take what’s on the card, not all of your money.

Additionally, you can use a prepaid debt card for things like Venmo and PayPal to transfer money between family and friends.


Bartering is another option if you want to live without a bank account, albeit probably a complicated one.

While you’ll likely need money at some point to buy things, you can barter for stuff like clothing by attending clothing swaps.

You can even find anything from furniture to old school Macbooks for free on Craigslist listings. There are a lot of people out there trying to give stuff away, so take advantage of it.

Cash Your Checks

Most employers will not pay you with cash for several reasons (paper trail, taxes, etc.), which means that If you want to live without a bank account you’re going to have to cash your checks.

Your best option will likely be to take the cash to the check writer’s bank. However, don’t be surprised if you have to pay a fee. You may even get denied if you’re not an account holder.

Jessica Garbarino of Every Single Dollar recently had an experience where she had to do this as a part of an event at a conference which was meant to raise awareness about what the unbanked must go through to make basic financial transactions.

What she discovered was how difficult it was to get a check cashed and how the fees add up. After visiting three different check cashing locations, she was able to cash her payroll check at a major bank for a fee. As for a personal check, she had to cash it at the grocery store for another fee.

“It was super eye-opening to go through the experience and see how much time and money is spent to complete what most would consider routine financial transactions,” she noted.

Pay For Your Bills In Person

Chances are most companies won’t allow you to send cash in the mail to pay your bills. They will, however, likely accept cash if you go in person. So, if you want to live without a bank account and still need to pay bills, you may be making extra trips to different service providers.

Of course, this is assuming you can get your checks cashed in a timely manner. Part of Garbarino’s assignment was to pay a bill in person, but she never made it. It took so long to get the checks cashed that she ran out of time to pay her bill.

Because of this, make sure to allow ample time to actually get the money in your hands so you can pay your bills.

Final Thoughts

Although it may lead to some extra hassles, living without a bank account is doable if you’re willing to put in a little extra leg work. There are also some advantages to using things like cryptocurrency or prepaid cards that you may not get with traditional financial services.