Why You Can’t Open a Bank Account and What to Do Next

By Caroline Banton · June 04, 2024 · 7 minute read

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Why You Can’t Open a Bank Account and What to Do Next

It’s certainly a frustrating experience to be denied a checking account. The problem could be with your past banking history, an error on your bank reports, or a mistake you made filling out your application, among other reasons. Once you find out what the issue is, you can take steps to remedy the situation and hopefully get approved for a bank account.

A checking account serves as a hub for many people’s financial life. It’s where your paycheck is likely deposited and how you pay your bills. Here’s the information you need to move forward when you can’t open a bank account.

Reasons Why You Can’t Open a Bank Account

There are a few common reasons that can cause you to be unable to open a bank account.

Negative Information on ChexSystems

Typically, banks don’t pull your credit score when you apply for an account. They do, however, usually look into your prior checking account activity via ChexSystems, the most popular banking reporting agency. ChexSystems provides a score reflecting how well you previously handled your banking life. The banks use this information to decide whether to qualify you for a checking account.

Negative items on your ChexSystems report may result in you being denied a checking account. They can cause banks to consider you a high-risk customer for financial services. Negative information can include:

•  Forced account closures

•  Bounced checks or overdrafts

•  Suspected fraud or identity theft

•  Unpaid fees or negative bank balances from a current or closed accounts

•  Too many account applications submitted over a short period

These negative marks on your record can last up to five years.

Errors on Your ChexSystems Report

Just as you may have credit report errors, so too can your ChexSystems report have mistakes. This could trigger your bank account application to be rejected, even if your past checking account management was good.

You can obtain a copy of your ChexSystems report once a year or whenever your application for a bank account is denied based on the report. (Keep in mind that applying for a bank account too many times counts as a black mark against you. If you get rejected, it’s probably a good idea to investigate your banking report vs just putting in more applications.) You’ll find details below on how to access your report.

Bankruptcy

If you have filed for bankruptcy, the bank will likely find out. In fact, there is often a question about bankruptcy on an account application. The bank could decide that your past bankruptcy means you are too much of a risk to offer you a bank account.

Typically, your borrowing capacity will be significantly limited by bankruptcy, as will the number of financial institutions willing to provide you with financial services, such as a checking account.

Your Identity Can’t Be Verified

An application for a bank account may be rejected because there are mistakes on it and/or the information entered does not match the documents you submitted. For example, if you have recently moved, the verification source may not recognize your new address, or you might have answered security questions incorrectly when prompted by the verification system.

Here are other reasons your identity might not be verified:

•  Your submission had an error or typo (perhaps in your Social Security number)..

•  Your credit profile may contain erroneous information.

•  Your credit report could be frozen if there is suspicion of fraud or identity theft.

•  Your documents may have expired.

•  Your documents may be unreadable.

•  You may have submitted a phone number that is not associated with your address.

•  Your proof of identity, such as a copy of your driver’s license or passport, and the information typed into an application don’t match.


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What to Do After You’ve Been Denied Opening a Bank Account

If you’ve been denied a checking account, you may well want to apply elsewhere immediately. But a word of warning: Doing so could cause your application to be rejected because you are requesting too many new accounts too often. To maximize your chances of success, take the following steps before you reapply.

1. Find Out Why Your Application Was Denied and Ask the Bank to Reconsider

By law, the bank should tell you why your application was denied. Regardless of the bank’s information from a reporting agency, the bank makes its own decisions when approving account applications. You may be able to overturn the bank’s decision depending on the circumstances. It’s probably worthwhile to make that request.

For instance, in the case of a typo on your application information or a very old issue with an unpaid overdraft fee, you might be able to get the bank to reconsider.

2. Check Your Banking Report

You can obtain a copy of your ChexSystems report once a year and whenever you are denied a bank account if the report is the cause of your rejection. Visit the ChexSystems’ website or call 800-428-9623.

3. Look for Errors and Fraudulent Activity

Read the report from ChexSystems carefully, looking for fraudulent activity or mistakes in information such as your name, address, phone number, or Social Security number. For any errors, contact the agency, and be ready to provide supporting information to ensure the issue gets corrected.

4. Clean Up Your Report

Look at the negative actions on your report and fix them; you can file a dispute for anything erroneous by going to the ChexSystems website. Pay off any debts and unsettled fees. Ask to have the negative activity removed. Otherwise, it can stay on your report for up to five years.

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Consider Alternative Solutions

If you have been denied a bank account and can’t quickly resolve the issue, here are a couple of workarounds to consider:

Second-Chance Checking Account

Some banking institutions offer a second-chance account to those denied a traditional checking account. A second-chance account typically provides limited services. It may set a cap on debit card usage, not provide paper checks, and not enable overdraft protection. Nevertheless, this kind of account can help improve your financial life if managed responsibly.

Also worth noting: These accounts often come with higher-than-usual fees, but you may be able to upgrade a second-chance account to a regular checking account within a year or two if you pay the fees and maintain a positive balance. These accounts can help you on your path to building a solid banking history.

Prepaid Debit Cards

If you need a way to spend on daily expenses and pay bills without a bank account, prepaid debit cards could be a good solution. You load a dollar value onto these cards (they’re available at many retailers, such as gas stations and supermarkets), and you can then tap or swipe to use the funds.

Make sure you’re aware of any fees you might incur when using or reloading your card, and know that the usage of these cards isn’t reported. In other words, it won’t build your credit score or your banking history in any way. But it can be a valuable stop-gap measure when you don’t have a bank account and need a convenient way to transfer funds.

Recommended: How Often Should You Monitor Your Checking Account?

The Takeaway

Having your application for a bank account denied is an upsetting experience that can definitely limit your financial life. The root of the problem could be that ChexSystems or another consumer reporting agency has indicated that you are a high-risk customer. Or your application could be rejected because mistakes were made or your identity couldn’t be verified. By taking steps to remove errors and repair damage, you’ll be on the road to get the account you need to keep your financial life humming along.

When you’re ready to apply for a checking account again, check out what SoFi has to offer.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Why am I getting denied to open a bank account?

There are several reasons you could be denied a bank account, including mistakes on your application, negative activity on your checking account history, or errors on your ChexSystems or similar report.

Can you get a bank account if you have committed fraud?

If you have committed fraud, you will likely have a negative history with ChexSystems, and you will likely have your bank account application declined. However, you might get a second chance checking account. If you maintain a positive balance and pay the monthly fees, you can probably upgrade to a regular checking account within a year or two.

Can a bank refuse to let you open an account?

Yes; banks can decide whether or not they want to offer an account to an applicant. They might deny an account if you have negative activity (such as unpaid overdraft fees and account closures) on your ChexSystems report or if there’s a mistake on your application. Banks are, however, required by law to explain why they reject your application.


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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 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.


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