How Safe Is a Checking Account?

By Kelly Boyer Sagert · April 17, 2023 · 7 minute read

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How Safe Is a Checking Account?

In light of recent events, some bank customers may wonder how safe a checking account is in terms of stashing their cash.

Banks are far better for protecting your hard-earned cash than you keeping a wad of bills hidden somewhere in your home — mainly because the money you deposit in a bank is insured up to $250,000 or possibly more1.

But there’s more to the story. So read on, and we’ll tell you in detail how banks make sure your money is well defended — and what you can do to help keep those dollars safe.

Is My Money Safer at a Bank?

It’s only natural to wonder where your money is safest, and keeping your cash on deposit at a bank is one of the safest things you can do. For one thing, carrying cash with you — or, worse, hiding it in your house — leaves you vulnerable to theft or loss (or some other unforeseen event).

In addition, banks are highly regulated and, as mentioned, deposits are insured. And as many people now know, the government is fully invested in protecting the cash of its citizens.

Why Your Money Is Safer in the Bank

Here are some of the protections your checking account may have:

•   FDIC insurance

•   NCUA insurance

•   Capital requirements

•   Protection from fires, floods, and thefts

Read on for a brief description of these protections.

FDIC Insurance

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) protects people who deposit money into FDIC-insured financial institutions against loss. This kind of insurance is backed by the federal government and depositors are automatically insured, generally up to $250,000 per depositor, per FDIC-insured institution, per ownership category. (Some banks participate in programs that extend the FDIC insurance to cover millions.) If your bank were to go out of business, you’re covered up to the cap.

NCUA Insurance

Maybe you’re the kind of person who prefers to keep your cash at a credit union. Don’t worry; it’s still safe. Congress created the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) in 1970 to insure deposits of up to $250,000 at federally insured credit unions. The $250,000 is for each member, per insured credit union, per ownership category. Basically, NCUA is an agency that provides coverage for credit union members that’s comparable to what FDIC does for bank customers.

Capital Requirements

Banks and other financial institutions that accept deposits must have enough liquid assets to cover their expenses while still being able to provide cash when depositors request withdrawals. Formulas to calculate capital requirements can be complicated, but know that they are in place and are protecting you.

A financial institution is required to have a risk-to-asset ratio of at least 4% to safeguard people who deposit funds into their institution.

Protections From Fires, Floods, and Thefts

Banks purchase banker blanket bonds, which protect the institution in case of fire, flood, robbery, embezzlement, earthquakes, and other causes of lost funds. As a result, even if the bank loses money, customers won’t lose their funds.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


Advantages of Keeping Money in a Checking Account

Now, let’s pull back and take a big-picture look at why a checking account is such a sweet spot for protecting your money. Some of the pluses:

•   Your money is covered from loss when deposited in an FDIC-insured bank or an NCUA-insured credit union.

•   If your funds exceed the amount of these significant coverages ($250,000), then you can simply open accounts at an institution that offers an insurance program with a higher amount. Or you might open additional accounts at other insured banks and be covered through those institutions.

•   Interest-bearing checking accounts (though not all checking accounts do pay interest) allow you to earn money simply by keeping it in the account.

•   You can easily use your deposited funds by writing a check, withdrawing money from the bank or by an ATM, or transferring it.

•   Checking accounts that come with debit cards make it simple to make purchases through a card reader in person or by entering data online. (Note: There are cons of using a debit card online, like less fraud and purchase protection.)

•   Mobile banking makes it easy to conduct financial transactions wherever you go. You may be wondering, Is mobile banking safe? The answer is yes, most of the time, but you do need to take some precautions to avoid potential hacking activity (more on that below).

•   You can have your paycheck automatically/directly deposited into your checking account. This eliminates a paper check that could get lost or stolen; plus, you don’t have to physically deposit it yourself on payday.

•   A checking account can provide a record of what you spent — and when and where — which is helpful with budgeting, at tax time, and more.

•   Some banks allow you to get paid up to two days early — meaning that your direct deposit is available 48 hours before it’s actually deposited.

Your Role in Protecting Your Money in the Bank

You’ve learned about how banks safeguard your deposits…but what about your role in protecting your money? Yes, even when your dinero is locked up tight at a bank, your actions can impact its security. Consider the following points:

•   If you have any reason to believe that fraudulent activity is occurring or has occurred with your checking account, contact your bank immediately as well as local law enforcement.

•   Create a unique password for your checking account; consider storing it in a secure password management system. Then regularly change your password.

•   Regularly check your balance and balance your statements. This way, you can spot suspicious-looking activity early and address any discrepancies. Identity theft is not unusual and a proactive approach is the best way to protect yourself.

•   Be especially careful when using public Wi-Fi at libraries, coffee shops, and the like. While they’re convenient for information gathering, when you’re conducting financial transactions on them, the open connection makes it easier for hackers to do bad things.

•   Keep your own computer up to date, installing appropriate software updates, malware blockers, and so forth.

•   Sign up for fraud alerts with your bank. Receiving real-time transaction info through texts, emails, or mobile apps allows you to quickly respond to any attempts at fraud.

•   Also, don’t share your banking information with anyone by phone or email. For example, if someone claims to be a representative from your financial institute, hang up. Then use the contact information you have for your bank and share what happened.

The Takeaway

So, how safe are checking accounts? At insured institutions, depositors enjoy deep levels of protection. Besides being safe, there are numerous advantages to having a checking account. Definitely a win-win versus hiding your bucks somewhere at home. But depositing your funds is just part of the bargain: Then you have to do your share and keep vigilant and make sure that fraudsters don’t get their fingers on your dough.

If you’re looking for a bank that protects your money with 24/7 account monitoring, apply for an online bank account with SoFi. SoFi recently announced that deposits may be insured up to $2 million through participation in the SoFi Insured Deposit Program. But here’s what else: If you sign up for direct deposit with us, you’ll earn a competitive APY. Plus, you’ll pay no account fees, and you’ll be able to access your paycheck up to two days early.

Better banking is here with  up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Is your money safe in a checking account?

Yes, your money is safe in a checking account. Federally insured banks and credit unions automatically protect depositors like you for up to $250,000 per person, per insured institution, per ownership category (or possibly more). These financial institutions are even covered in case of fire, flood, and earthquakes, as well as when crimes, such as robbery and embezzlement, occur.

What are the risks of a checking account?

Checking accounts come with plenty of benefits and, at federally insured financial institutions, with solid protection against risk. That said, there are a couple of potential disadvantages to checking accounts. For example, not all of them pay interest (although some do). Some come with monthly fees (which can get pricey). And some financial institutions will require a minimum balance in your account.

There’s also some risk of criminal activity: If you ever suspect that someone has hacked into or otherwise fraudulently used your checking account, contact your bank and local law enforcement.

Can someone steal your checking account?

Physical checks and debit cards can be stolen, and your account could be hacked. So keep all personal data in a secure place and, if any items are lost, contact your financial institution immediately. If you believe your checks or debit card to be stolen, also inform your local law enforcement.


Photo credit: iStock/akinbostanci

1SoFi Bank is a member FDIC and does not provide more than $250,000 of FDIC insurance per legal category of account ownership, as described in the FDIC’s regulations. Any additional FDIC insurance is provided by banks in the SoFi Insured Deposit Program. Deposits may be insured up to $2M through participation in the program. See full terms at SoFi.com/banking/fdic/terms. See list of participating banks at SoFi.com/banking/fdic/receivingbanks.

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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