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If you've ever been turned down for a checking account because of past banking issues — such as an account closed due to unpaid overdraft fees — second chance checking could offer you another shot at banking.
» Ready to compare accounts? Skip ahead to our list of banks that offer second chance checking
What is second chance checking?
Serious banking issues can put you on a list held by consumer reporting agency ChexSystems. Banks look at it or similar sources before approving new accounts — and having a flawed banking history from bounced checks, unpaid fees or account closures makes it less likely you'll be approved.
Some banks and credit unions offer "second chance" checking accounts for people in this situation. The accounts can help people rebuild their banking histories, but they don't necessarily have all the services that come with regular checking accounts.
» Looking for other financial accommodations? See NerdWallet’s list of community development financial institutions (CDFIs)
What are the pros and cons of second chance checking?
Second chance checking accounts usually have monthly fees that can't be waived, and they often carry more requirements than standard checking accounts, such as setting up direct deposit or completing a money management class. You typically can't enroll in an overdraft program, since the point of a second chance account is to demonstrate that you can avoid overdrawing.
These checking accounts can help improve banking history, but they don't rebuild credit. For that, consider a secured credit card.
Despite their limitations, second chance checking accounts often beat alternatives, such as prepaid debit cards or check-cashing services, which can come with costly transaction fees and balance requirements, and may lack convenient features such as online banking.
If you can avoid negative balances or fees, many second chance checking accounts let you upgrade to a regular checking account within six months to a year.
Picking a second chance checking account
The best second chance accounts come with:
Low or no monthly fees.
No minimum balance requirements.
Services such as debit card access, online bill pay and unlimited check writing privileges — for free.
Few limits, such as daily or monthly maximum transaction amounts.
Not all second chance checking accounts have these features. Some charge monthly fees as high as $20 and don't issue debit cards or checks to account holders. Check the fees and requirements before applying.
» Want to improve your banking history? Here are five steps to clear up your ChexSystems record
National second chance banking
A few banks and financial companies backed by banks offer second chance checking nationwide:
Chime (account name: Spending Account, available online). Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by The Bancorp Bank, N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A., Members FDIC.
Green Dot Bank (account name: GoBank, available online and at Walmart stores).
Varo (account name: Bank Account, available online).
Wells Fargo (account name: Clear Access Banking, available online and at Wells Fargo branches).
Most major banks don’t offer second chance checking, but many community banks and credit unions have them under various names, such as Opportunity Checking and Fresh Start Checking.
If you can't find an account that works for you in the lists below, see if your community participates in a Bank On program. Many communities have joined this initiative, which enables city governments and local banks to work together to serve individuals trying to get back into the banking system. Another option is to consider a prepaid debit card with robust services and few fees.
» Want to explore another option? Check out our picks for the best prepaid debit cards
Compare second chance checking accounts
Regional and state-based second chance checking accounts
Some regional banks and credit unions offer second chance accounts, though customers must often live in certain states or meet other special membership requirements. Here's a list of several such institutions.
Want (or need) an account at a state-based financial institution? Find options by clicking below.
Did we leave your financial institution off this list? Please let us know.
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