Whether it’s angling the perfect shot in a game of pool or telling a crush how you really feel, everyone wishes they could have a second chance from time to time — and money matters are no exception. Sometimes in life, things just … happen and don’t go the way one might hope. And sometimes, those circumstances can wreak havoc on our personal finances in a lasting way.
You probably already know that bureaus like Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax track your credit history. But you might not know that consumer reporting agencies track your banking history, too. And in the same way that having a poor credit history can hurt your chances of receiving credit in the future, having a poor checking history can make it harder to get a bank account.
There is a product on the market for folks who have a less-than-perfect track record with banking — in fact, there are several options. Read on to learn all about this, including:
• What is second chance banking?
• How do second chance bank accounts work?
• Where can you get second chance banking?
Who Is a Second Chance Banking For?
Before we define second chance checking accounts, let’s take a step back and talk about why they exist in the first place. This means understanding a bit about ChexSystems.
What is ChexSystems? Think of it as the banking equivalent of a credit bureau. It catalogs information on consumers’ banking histories, including basics like name, contact information and Social Security number, as well as information on account closures, bounced checks and overdrafts, unpaid balances, suspected fraud, and more.
When a customer applies for a new checking account at a bank or credit union, the institution may look up the ChexSystem report to determine whether or not it’s willing to extend its services. Negative report items — such as unpaid overdrafts, involuntary account closures, or a high number of recent inquiries — can cause a bank to refuse regular checking services to the client.
That’s where second-account checking comes in. A second-chance bank account is one where the bank offering the account is willing to overlook a less-than-stellar banking history. This means a client can continue to use a bank account while rebuilding their ChexSystem report.
While this type of account isn’t available at all banks, it is available at many, including some major traditional and online banks, like Wells Fargo, Chime, and Varo.
In other words, an imperfect banking history doesn’t have to mean living an unbanked existence — which is good news, as we live in an increasingly cashless world.
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How Does Second Chance Banking Work?
Here’s how second chance banking operates: much like any other regular checking account. The account holder deposits money into the second chance checking account, which they can then access using a debit card or making a withdrawal at an ATM.
Specific account features will depend on which institution is offering the account. For example, some banks may offer free paper checks or convenient mobile banking to give customers a bird’s-eye view of their finances.
On the other hand, some banks may impose monthly service fees or minimum opening deposits, and may not allow second chance checking account holders to use paper checks. And although checking account interest rates are notoriously low, it’s unlikely your second chance checking account will grow any interest at all.
That’s why, as when opening any other kind of bank account, it’s important to review the fine print closely to ensure you know what you’re getting into before you apply. If you need to use paper checks to pay rent, for example, an account where they’re not allowed won’t work — and there are other accounts available that will offer the service you need.
Applying for one of these accounts typically works in the same way as opening a bank account of any kind.
• The bank will ask for a variety of personal information, and you may be asked to verify your identity with a form of official identification like a driver’s license or Social Security card.
• You can do this in person or entirely online.
• Depending on the institution, you may be required to put down a minimum initial deposit. However, in many cases, you will find second chance checking with no opening deposit, meaning the account will be 100% free.
• You may need to wait a few business days for your application to process, and then you should be in!
Once you’ve opened a second chance checking account, you can use it as normal to pay bills, restaurant tabs, and grocery store totals — whatever expenses come up in your day-to-day life. Meanwhile, the negative items that might be on your ChexSystems report will slowly vanish. Most records fall off after five years.
If you’re interested in cleaning up your ChexSystems report, know this:
• Consumers also have the right, under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA), to request a free ChexSystems report once a year. A request can be made by phone, mail, fax, or online form, allowing review of the report for any incorrect negative items and disputing them.
• If you do dispute something on your record, the investigation will generally take about a month. You will receive a letter in the mail notifying you of the results.
Thus, over time, it’s possible to clean up a ChexSystems record — which can unlock the ability to pursue other types of banking services, including high-interest deposit accounts.
Recommended: Guide to Reopening a Closed Bank Account
Pros and Cons of Second Chance Banking
While second chance banking does provide a valuable service, there are some drawbacks to these accounts as well. Here are the pros and cons of second chance checking accounts.
• Allows clients to use a checking account even without a perfect banking history.
• Gives account holders time to rebuild their banking history and let negative items fall off their ChexSystems report.
• In many cases, second chance checking accounts are free and don’t require a minimum opening deposit.
• Some accounts may assess monthly fees and have minimum opening deposits — and may not offer waivers.
• The account may have limited capabilities (such as an inability to use paper checks or to access overdraft protection).
• The account is unlikely to offer interest growth on account balances.
Alternatives to Second Chance Banking
Second chance checking accounts are a solid option for those who might not be able to open a traditional checking account because of their banking history. But they’re not the only alternative. Here are two options:
• Prepaid debit cards. Many banks offer prepaid debit cards that can be used to pay bills and other expenses without using cash. It works like a gift card: Clients load the card with a certain amount of money, which they can then use as they see fit. The cards are also reloadable, making them a fair option for working around the handicap of not having a bank account.
What’s more, many prepaid debit cards don’t require a credit check to open. This makes them a viable choice for those with poor credit histories as well as poor ChexSystems reports.
That said, there are pros and cons of prepaid debit cards. In terms of downsides, they often include a variety of fees — such as monthly maintenance fees, activation fees, and reloading fees — which can eat into the user’s balance and make them unsustainable for long-term use.
• Cash. Others who find themselves unbanked might try to simply pay their way through life using cash. After all, you can get a paycheck cashed at the nearest major grocery store or Walmart.
However, there are downsides: Check-cashing services generally come with a fee. Plus, many utility companies, landlords, and other bill collectors don’t accept cash as payment. And if your cash is lost or stolen, there’s no reliable way to get it back. It’s gone.
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What is second chance banking?
Second chance banking is a kind of account that serves people who may not have a perfect banking record. If you have negative items on your ChexSystems record, you may still qualify for an account.
What is a second chance bank account?
A second chance account is one that can be opened even if you have a less than perfect history with banking. It may have some downsides (monthly fees plus no overdraft protection, for example) but it allows people to get back in the game and have checking privileges.
Who is second chance banking for?
Second chance banking is for people who have negative items in their banking history. These typically include unpaid overdrafts, involuntary account closures, and other events which show the account holder did not use their privileges responsibly.
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