This study aimed to investigate the adoption and the use of first-order retail banking product by those individuals who are classified as being low-income earners and who reside (for the purposes of employment) in urban and periurban areas. The Financial Sector Charter of 2003 stated that the improvement and consequent increase in the access to formal financial services could contribute towards sustained economic growth, development and social transformation in South Africa. The purpose of this research is to gain insight into the adoption and usage of first-order retail banking products in an effort to better understand what could be done to improve access to these services and products. A total of 140 individuals across three sectors were interviewed with regards to their adoption of, use of and perceptions of banking institutions and bank accounts in South Africa. The results, in graphic form, were analysed in order to discern similarities and / or discrepancies so that conclusions could be drawn. It was concluded that while banking institutions and bank accounts were seen in a positive light, perceptions regarding the purpose and functionality of banking institutions and bank accounts as well as the available products and their usage, came across as being the largest hindrance to first-order retail banking product adoption and usage amongst low-income individuals in the urban and peri-urban areas.