Do Banks Run Credit Checks for a Checking Account?

By Jamie Cattanach · January 29, 2024 · 6 minute read

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Do Banks Run Credit Checks for a Checking Account?

If you’re wondering whether a bank checks your credit when you open a checking account, the answer is typically no…but there’s more to the story than that one little word.

When it comes to starting a new checking account, banks don’t usually check your three-digit FICO® score — the most common score used by lenders — in order to determine your eligibility to open a checking account. They do, however, often look into your banking history via an agency known as ChexSystems.

Here’s a closer look at credit checks when opening an account and what could prevent you from getting that approval you’re after.

Whether or Not Banks Run Credit Checks for Checking Accounts

First, know that when most entities check your credit, they’re looking at that three-digit FICO score mentioned above — the one that ranges from 300 (poor) to 850 (exceptional). They will likely also receive your entire credit report, which is a detailed document listing all your open accounts, their statuses, and several years of your credit behavior, among other items.

When your credit is checked, it can be either a soft or hard credit inquiry. The former are inquiries that don’t impact your precious credit score. But the latter can wind up lowering your score because these “hard pulls,” as they are sometimes known, can indicate that you are shopping around for more credit, which can make you look like a risky prospect.

But back to our question about whether a bank will initiate a credit check…the answer is: not exactly. They typically use their own kind of financial background check system called ChexSystems. It’s a reporting agency that focuses on consumers’ banking behavior.

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What Is ChexSystems?

ChexSystems is a reporting agency that focuses on your behavior around banking. Some details to note:

•   Your ChexSystems report will include your history of overdrafts, negative balances, and bounced checks, as well as any instances of fraud, security freezes, and other items specifically to do with your banking history. So while it’s not a credit check, per se, it is like a credit check, and your report could lead to your being rejected for a bank account.

•   Like any other reporting agency, ChexSystems is required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to issue consumers a free report once a year, so you can regularly check your history.

•   If any of the negative items on your report are fraudulent, you can dispute that information with the agency to get it removed — and if they’re legitimate, you can work toward improving the behavior that caused them. (Most information on your ChexSystems report falls off after five years.)

•   There are also deposit accounts that don’t pull ChexSystems reports. So even if you’ve got some negative history, it’s possible to turn over a new leaf and work toward a more positive relationship with banking.

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Why Do Banks Run Credit Checks When You Open a Bank Account?

Now that you know how credit checks work, you may wonder, Why do banks run credit checks when you want to open an account? Isn’t that their whole reason for being, to give people checking and savings accounts?

While there’s truth to that, banks do rely on their customers to keep their accounts in good order — and to pay fees, ensure checks don’t bounce, and generally be responsible bankers.

Using ChexSystems gives banks an idea of how you might behave as a banking customer in the future based on your recorded behavior. The intel in ChexSystems can also help a bank disqualify you from obtaining an account if they don’t think you pass muster.

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Does It Hurt Your Credit Score When Trying to Open a Bank Account?

One exciting corollary to the fact that banks don’t pull your credit score when opening an account: Opening a bank account won’t hurt your credit score, since there’s no hard credit inquiry involved. That’s comforting news to anyone opening a new bank account. It also means you can even open a few different checking and savings accounts (perhaps you want a regular checking account, plus one for your side hustle income, as well as a savings account for your emergency fund), and you won’t negatively impact your rating.

Stressed about your credit score and not loving where it’s lingering? Building your credit score is definitely an important step toward plenty of financial goals, and the behaviors you cultivate to do so may also improve your ChexSystems report. Moves like lowering the amount of debt you carry, paying bills on time all the time, and not opening too many lines of credit can really pay off.

Reasons Why You Might Be Denied a Checking Account

Unfortunately, every now and then, people do get rejected when they apply for a bank account. For banks that use ChexSystems, these are some of the reasons for a denial.

Unpaid Negative Balance on a Previous Bank Account

As mentioned, banks aren’t officially loaning money to checking account holders — but if you maintain a negative balance on an account and never pay that money back, the financial institution is on the hook for that loss. For this reason, negative balances on existing or previous accounts can spell rejection for a new one.

Abusing Overdraft Privileges

On a similar note, overdrafting again and again hinders a bank’s ability to stay in the black on your account. That goes double if you’ve avoided paying overdraft fees or other charges associated with your behavior.

Fraudulent Activity on Previous Accounts

ChexSystems records suspected fraudulent activity — which, obviously, is not something a bank wants to have to deal with in the future.

Having a Joint Account With Someone Who Has Negative Unpaid Balances on Their Accounts

When you have a joint bank account, your partner’s behaviors can affect your standing as much as your own. So even if it’s not you who’s wreaking havoc on your bank account, the other person’s negative balances, overdraft abuses, and fraudulent activity could negatively impact your ChexSystems report.

The Takeaway

If you’re sweating whether opening a bank account can involve a credit check that deflates your credit score, don’t worry. Most banks don’t pull a hard credit check to qualify you for a checking account. However, they might look into your ChexSystems report, a banking industry way of peering into an applicant’s history. Certain negative items can disqualify you from opening a bank account.

That said, there are banks out there that don’t use ChexSystems to qualify their customers, and SoFi is one of them.

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FAQ

Do banks check your credit score when opening a checking account?

While banks don’t check your FICO score to qualify you for a checking account, they may check your ChexSystems report. This is similar to your credit report but focused specifically on your banking history.

Can you be denied a checking account because of bad credit?

You likely won’t be denied a checking account because of bad credit directly. However, if you have bad credit, you may also have negative items on your ChexSystems report that could disqualify you from some (but not all) bank accounts.

Why would a bank deny a checking account?

A bank might deny your request for an account if you have negative items on your ChexSystems report, such as fraudulent activity, negative balances, or unpaid overdraft charges.


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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 deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government 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, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

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.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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