This paper analyzes the experience of the U.S. postal savings system, and compares it to Japan's experience with a view to assessing the past and potential future role of the postal savings system in Japan. It finds that demand for postal savings deposits is explained, in both countries, mainly by two variables: price (interest differentials) and confidence in private banks. Geographical accessibility in rural areas is of less, and diminishing, importance. It is argued that postal banking should be viewed as an alternative to publicly sponsored deposit insurance, as a means to ensure households' access to safe and convenient savings and payment services. Accordingly, the reforms undertaken in the next few years under the outline set out by the 1998 Basic Law on the Reform of Central Government Ministries and Agencies might best aim to restructure postal savings as a "narrow bank," whose services are priced to fully reflect costs and risks incurred.
Keywords: U.S. postal savings; Japanese postal savings; Deposit insurance; Narrow bank
Views expressed in the paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Bank of Japan or Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies.