Bank Holidays & Managing Accounts
Holidays can provide time to relax and celebrate, but they can cause problems with your finances. On bank holidays, some financial transactions grind to a halt. Usually, that’s not an issue—you can use debit and credit cards, check your balance online, and get cash from an ATM. But significant life events that line up with bank holidays can cause major headaches.
Federal and Bank Holidays
Bank holidays typically mirror the holidays declared by the Federal Reserve Board. On those holidays, bank and credit union branches tend to be closed, and banks pause payment processing behind the scenes. However, banks can follow their own schedule, and some stay open on holidays or observe the holiday on an alternate date.
Bank branches may be open for business on holidays, but it’s best to check before you make a trip. Call centers are more likely to be open on certain holidays, but customer service may have limited ability to serve your needs, and specialized departments are more likely to be out of the office.
Why Federal Holidays Matter
If a bank is open on a federal holiday, the bank can accept deposits, take loan applications, and more. But payment processing through the Federal Reserve Bank is unavailable, and ACH payments are also paused. As a result, some payments (like paper checks) are put on hold until the next business day. For transactions that take several business days to process, official holidays and weekends do not count as business days.
If a federal holiday falls on a Saturday, your bank branch and some Federal Reserve offices close the preceding Friday. When holidays fall on a Sunday, banks and Federal Reserve offices are typically closed the following Monday. Those weekdays may not count as business days.
Federal Holidays for 2020
These are the federal holidays for 2020, including exactly which date each occasion lands on this year.
- New Year's Day: January 1
- Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.: January 20
- Washington's Birthday: February 17
- Memorial Day: May 25
- Independence Day: July 3
- Labor Day: September 7
- Columbus Day: October 12
- Veterans Day: November 11
- Thanksgiving Day: November 26
- Christmas Day: December 25
On most bank holidays, you won’t even notice that payment processing has stalled. However, if you’re on a short payment deadline or you need funds urgently, holidays can prevent you from doing what you need to do. As a result, it’s helpful to get things set up in advance of holidays and holiday weekends.
Deposits won’t get added to your account on bank holidays. If you need cash for holiday travel or other needs, this can cause problems. The good news is that automatic electronic withdrawals from your account should also be suspended during the holiday. If you need to deposit a check, use your bank’s mobile app to deposit the check before the holiday (on Friday night, for example). Those apps often allow for later cut-off times—some banks post deposits that are made by 9 pm Eastern.
Deposit clearing is slower during holidays. When you deposit funds into your account with a check, the bank may put a hold on those funds for several business days, and you can’t spend that money until the hold clears. A holiday adds an extra business day to your wait time. Official checks and wire transfers clear more quickly.
Payroll is paused for holidays. If you get paid by direct deposit from your employer, you may need to wait longer for your wages. Employers are allowed to schedule payments to go out before bank holidays, but they’re not required to do so.
Electronic payments out of your account are delayed. On the bright side, you’ll have more money available in your account for the holiday. However, this can potentially cause you to make late payments and face late fees or other penalties. You can’t send a wire transfer on a holiday, but you can typically submit a request for the wire to go out on the next business day.
Loan payments are not credited on holidays or on days when holidays are observed. If you mail in payments, that may not be a problem, but verify the details for the type of account you’re making payments on. Under federal law, credit cards payments by mail must be counted as on-time if they’re received by 5 pm on the next business day after a holiday (because there is no mail service on holidays). However, if you make electronic payments, your payment still needs to be in before the holiday.
Branches are often closed on holidays, but local banks may have holiday and weekend hours. If you need to get a cashier’s check or take care of other tasks, it’s probably best to do so ahead of time. That said, sometimes branches are open on the Saturday of a holiday weekend, giving you a chance to sneak in and take care of business. If you need a money order, you can typically get those from retailers and convenience stores that are often open year-round. If your bank happens to be open on a holiday, that holiday still won’t count as a business day for clearing funds.
Retailers may run short on cash. Shops and other merchants should plan for banks to stay closed during holidays, especially if the holiday is particularly busy with customers who pay cash. Extra coins and currency may come in handy, but it can be risky to keep too much cash on hand.
Other bills won’t be delivered. Utility payments, subscriptions, and other bills go unpaid during bank holidays. Fortunately, most providers allow payments to arrive on the next business day after the holiday.
Using Your Accounts
Despite the challenges above, you can still use your accounts—even on a long holiday weekend. Mobile apps and websites still allow you to view account balances and request transfers or bill payments for the next business day. You can also use your debit and credit card for online and in-person shopping, but your available balance may change after the holiday.
If you need to add funds to your account and a holiday is approaching, deposit cash or request that somebody make a wire transfer into your account. Those deposits should be made available for spending within one business day. Official checks and USPS money orders also clear quickly, and direct deposit of your pay should be available within one business day. Your employer might even deposit funds early.
Paying Bills Quickly
If a holiday is going to cause you to miss payments, you may have several opportunities to make accelerated payments.
- Pay the provider online: Service providers, such as utility or cable companies, often accept online payments with same day crediting. Instead of paying the way you normally do, visit the service provider’s website, log in to your account, and see if you can make immediate payments. Have your card numbers or bank account information handy to complete the payment.
- Pay by phone: You may also be able to pay by phone. Instead of figuring out your username and password, you’ll sit on hold, but the end result is the same.
- Pay in person: For local services, it may be possible to visit a payment center and pay a bill in person before the holiday begins. Some money transfer services and supermarkets also allow you to pay bills with national providers in person.
- Online bill payment through your bank: If you’ve got an extra day or two before the holiday, your bank’s online bill payment system may work. Set up the payee and request payment on the soonest possible date. In some cases, you’ll need to pay a fee for rush payments, but the fee should be less than any penalty or late charges.