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Key takeaways about ChexSystems:
ChexSystems is a reporting agency that banks use to track customers who have mishandled their bank account, including not paying an overdraft fee or bouncing a check.
ChexSystems records usually follow people for up to five years.
Even if a person has a ChexSystems record, they can typically still open a second-chance checking account, which is an option for people who otherwise can’t get a bank account.
If you've been denied a bank account, it might be because of a report on ChexSystems, a consumer reporting agency. When you apply for a new account, many banks use ChexSystems to see if you'd be a risky customer. This can impact their decision to approve you for an account.
Being in ChexSystems can be challenging for a time, but there are still ways to get a bank account while you wait for your record to improve. Read on for more information about ChexSystems and what options may be available to you.
» Fix your ChexSystems record with these five steps
What is ChexSystems?
ChexSystems is a national consumer reporting agency that keeps track of people who have misused a checking or savings account; for example, by bouncing a check or failing to pay a fee. Banks and credit unions can use ChexSystems to determine whether a person is a desirable potential customer.
How does ChexSystems work?
A bank or credit union will review an applicant's ChexSystems report. More than 80% of banks and credit unions use consumer reports from agencies such as ChexSystems or Early Warning Services to help them decide whether to approve bank account applicants, according to the National Consumer Law Center.
The review process is akin to applying for a credit card. A card issuer generally goes through at least one major credit reporting bureau to check your credit. This helps the issuer determine if you’re a risky customer for a new credit card. (Some banks look at your credit score when you apply for a bank account, too. Get your score free from NerdWallet.)
Banks and credit unions share information about these individuals and whether the institution closed their accounts. In return, the agency collects these consumer histories and creates risk scores and reports for banks to use as they consider potential customers.
ChexSystems provides the following information to banks and credit unions:
Risk score: ChexSystems Consumer Scores range from 100 to 899. The higher your score, the better, as high scores show that you're a less risky customer.
Report: The report — or "Consumer Disclosure," as ChexSystems calls it — shows items such as unpaid fees (primarily from overdrafts), checks bounced at retailers and suspected fraud. Reports also list credit inquiries, check orders and consumer-initiated security freezes. (If you have been a victim of identity theft, you can place a freeze on your ChexSystems consumer report. This helps to ensure no new financial accounts are opened in your name without your authorization.)
Individuals can request their score and report. You can request both your score and report from the agency, but a ChexSystems report is more useful. It gives you context for why a bank might've rejected you, and you can get one copy free every year. To request the report online, fill out this consumer disclosure form on the official ChexSystem website.
You'll generally receive the report by mail within five business days. But there might not be much in your report, and that’s a good thing: Unlike credit reports, ChexSystems ones focus mostly on negative account history.
How long do you stay on ChexSystems?
Usually five years. Although federal regulations allow ChexSystems to keep records for up to seven years, the agency keeps them for five.
If you review your report and see any incorrect or out-of-date information, you can also submit a dispute on ChexSystems' website and with your financial institution.
Are credit reports part of the review process?
Sometimes a bank will require a credit report. Banks might want more information than just banking history before approving a new customer’s account, including credit reports.
If a bank offers a checking account with a credit option such as an overdraft line of credit, for instance, it might request credit information. Banks can either pull a person’s credit report from one of the major credit reporting bureaus or get additional information that ChexSystems provides.
Can I get a bank account if I’ve been denied?
The short answer is, yes, you can get a bank account even if you’re on ChexSystems. Having a history on ChexSystems doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t have access to a checking or other account for the next five years.
Some banks and credit unions offer people with blemished histories so-called second chance checking accounts. Although these typically come with monthly fees, customers often can move to less costly regular checking accounts after successfully managing second chance checking for a year or two.
“Bank or credit union managers often have the authority to grant account privileges in spite of negative ChexSystems reports,” says Rob Drury, executive director of the Association of Christian Financial Advisors. In addition, you could try opening an account at a credit union, he says: “Some do not subscribe to ChexSystems.”
» Want to rebuild with a savings account instead of checking? Browse NerdWallet's list of best savings accounts
Consider other alternatives. You also could opt for a prepaid debit card that has low fees and strong protections.
Being denied a bank account because of a negative ChexSystems report or low consumer score isn’t the end of the world. Understanding how the process works and what your current account options are can help you progress toward better money management.