What Happens to a Direct Deposit if It Goes to a Closed Account?

By Jacqueline DeMarco · August 23, 2022 · 7 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

What Happens to a Direct Deposit if It Goes to a Closed Account?

Accidents happen; they’re simply a part of life. And one of the hiccups that can occur is a direct deposit going to a bank account that is closed. Maybe the account holder shut it or the financial institution did, but either way, the money may seem to be lost in the ether. Not a good feeling!

If you’re in this situation or worried about it occurring, relax. The money isn’t going to vanish into a black hole. The issue can usually be resolved, and there are several ways to track and reclaim the funds.

Learn about this here, including:

•   What is a closed account?

•   What happens when a direct deposit is sent to a closed account?

•   What can you do if your direct deposit is sent to a closed account?

•   How can you avoid having your direct deposit go to a closed account?

What Is a Closed Account?

A closed account refers to a deactivated or terminated account; in other words, it’s no longer open and available for deposits and withdrawals. The account holder, a custodian or the account, or the banking institution can usually close an account.

Why might a bank close an account? This can be what happens when your bank account is negative and you fail to replenish it and/or pay overdraft fees. Or perhaps the bank has seen activity they don’t think is legitimate, among other reasons.

Once this happens, it’s generally not possible to deposit funds by direct deposit or otherwise into the account.
(We’ll walk through exceptions to this rule shortly.) Often the term “closed account” refers to a checking or savings account, but it can also refer to a derivative trading, auto loan, brokerage, or credit card account.

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What Can Happen to a Direct Deposit if It Is Sent to a Closed Account?

Sometimes, you may have gone to the trouble of setting up direct deposit in the past, but then the account later winds up closed. You might wonder what happens if a direct deposit is sent to a closed account.

Most banks have a standard process they follow when misdirected money is received. Let’s look at a few different situations that can play out.

Direct Deposit Will Be Returned to the Sender

In many cases when someone tries to send money to a closed account, the bank will simply return the funds to the sender or decline the transaction. It can take about five to 10 days for funds to be returned to the sender. This timeline can speed up if the account holder to whom the deposit was intended is in good standing with the bank.

Bank Can Possibly Hold Funds

If a deposit is issued to a closed account, the bank may choose to hold onto the funds and may give the account holder time to reopen a closed bank account. Reopening a closed account, however, is only possible in a couple of scenarios. It’s not a sure thing.

Sometimes, a situation arises with what is known as a dormant account. This means there hasn’t been any activity over a period of time except for interest accruing. You may be able to get the account fully up and running again by contacting your financial institution.

In other cases, you might be able to reopen an account that is frozen. In the case of a frozen account, you may not be able to withdraw funds due to the financial institution’s decision (perhaps there is activity that doesn’t seem legitimate) or a court order (that is, a judgment against you). In some of these scenarios, you may be able to fix a frozen account by talking with your bank, or you may need legal assistance.

Banks may be more willing to work with customers if this is the first time a situation like this (meaning a dormant or frozen account) has happened. If a deposit was intended for you and you are able to reopen your account, this issue can resolve quickly—possibly within 24 hours.

Bank May Issue a Paper Check

Some banks choose to issue a paper check to the individual who owns the closed account. Other times, the company or individual with whom you set up direct deposit may get their funds back from the bank and then may make the payment via a paper check.

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When Does a Bank Return a Direct Deposit to the Sender?

If a bank receives a direct deposit for a closed account or for a faulty account number, they may choose to return the direct deposit to the sender or to simply decline the transaction.

Can a Direct Deposit Reopen a Closed Account?

Occasionally, a direct deposit being sent to a closed account can trigger its reopening. A bank may choose to give a customer the chance to reopen their account. They might hold onto the funds until the account is reopened so they can complete the direct deposit.

This happens very much on a case-by-case, bank-by-bank decision. Communication with your financial institution can be very important in this situation. Next, you’ll learn more about how this works.

Recommended: How Long Does a Direct Deposit Take to Go Through?

What Can I Do if My Direct Deposit Was Sent to a Closed Account?

If a direct deposit was sent into a closed account, the best thing to do is to contact the bank the funds were sent to. This can help you resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Every bank has its own processes for handling situations like this. Yours can help you understand what the best next steps may be.

The bank may or may not play a role in getting the funds to you. In some cases, you may need to deal directly with the payor. But in either case, your financial institution should be able to give you guidance.

Also, remember that while it can be stressful when a direct deposit goes to a closed account, the money won’t be lost. You should be able to get your funds back.

Avoiding a Misdirected Direct Deposit

To avoid having a direct deposit sent to a closed account, it’s best to get ahead of the issue. These are some steps you can take to help avoid a misdirected direct deposit.

•   Double-check account numbers on direct deposit forms. Whenever filling out a new direct deposit form, it’s a good idea to double (if not triple) check the account numbers on the form. Likewise, if you are expecting a recurring direct deposit to a closed bank account, it’s important to get it redirected to a current open account and carefully check that the digits are correct.

•   Cancel direct deposits before canceling a bank account. To help avoid any issues with direct deposits, it’s a good idea to cancel or alter any direct deposits before closing a bank account. Then, you can make sure payments are heading to a bank account that can receive the funds. That way, any issues can be resolved before the account closes so the money doesn’t get stuck in limbo.

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Can a direct deposit go into a closed account?

What happens if a direct deposit goes to a closed account? There are several outcomes that vary bank to bank. In some cases, the financial institution may hold onto the funds and let the customer reopen their account to claim the money; it might send the funds back to the payer or decline the transaction; or it may choose to issue a paper check to the payee.

How long does it take for a payment to bounce back from a closed account?

If an individual or business issues a direct deposit to a closed account, the bank may choose to either decline the transaction or send the funds back to the payer. If they choose to send the funds back to the payer, it typically takes anywhere from five to 10 days for them to get their money back.

What happens to money refunded to a closed bank account?

A few different scenarios can happen if money is refunded to a closed bank account. The bank to simply decline the transaction or to send the funds back to the payer. Other options include issuing a paper check to the payee or possibly holding onto the funds and giving the payee the option to reopen their closed account.

Photo credit: iStock/MissTuni

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