What to Do If Your Bank Makes a Deposit Into the Wrong Account

wrong-deposit.jpg
••• Creativ Studio Heinemann/Getty Images

Mistakes happen in any business, and banks and credit unions are no exception. Although it's unlikely, it is possible for a deposit to be mistakenly credited to the wrong person’s account.

When this happens, whether the bank error is in your favor or someone else's, the bank will eventually reverse the transaction and credit it to the correct account. In the meantime, this type of mistake will affect the amount of cash available in your account and you should make sure the error doesn't end up costing you money. Most important, you should never assume the money is yours and spend it.

Keeping Tabs on Your Balances and Transactions

You should make it a habit to monitor your bank balance at least weekly. And many banks offer apps that make it easy to quickly check recent transactions in your checking, savings, and credit card accounts.

You can set up text or email alerts for whenever a significant amount of money goes into or out of your account or when your account is getting low.

You should also get into the habit of balancing your checkbook regularly, reconciling your record of transactions with those from your bank statements. Doing so can not only help you spot errors; it can also help you make and stick to a budget by identifying how much you spend monthly on particular items.

It's also important to pay attention to your monthly bank statements because the bank will expect you to notify them of any errors within 60 days. Though it's not necessarily germane to the issue of a misrouted deposit, keep in mind that you could be made to pay for the full amount of any fraudulent transaction that occurs after that 60-day period and before the time you notified the bank of a problem with your account.

When Your Money Goes Missing 

If you notice that your bank balance is lower than it should be and see no record of a deposit you made, you should ask your bank to look into why it went missing, either because it went to a different account or for some other reason.

If you report the problem by telephone, your bank may ask you to also notify them in writing.

Your bank has 10 business days to investigate your issue—or 20 business days if your account has been active for less than a month. And once it has determined there was an error, it has one business day to correct the error and three business days to notify you of its actions.

If your bank fails to complete its investigation within the required time frame, it should credit your account for the amount of the missing deposit, minus $50 or less, while it continues its investigation. The bank then has 45 days to conclude the investigation, unless the disputed transaction was conducted in a foreign country or within 30 days of opening your account. If one of those conditions applies, your bank has up to 90 days to resolve the inquiry.

If the bank determines there was no error on its part, it must notify you in writing prior to taking back the provisional credit.

When Unexpected Money Shows Up 

If the reverse situation occurred and you suspect someone else's money was mistakenly deposited into your account, don't treat it as an unexpected windfall and spend it. You should preemptively contact your bank and let them know you're not sure where the deposit came from.

If your parents or anyone else has ever deposited money into one of your accounts, ask them if they made the unexpected deposit before contacting the bank.

If the bank discovers the mistake before you do or before you notify them of the mistake, the bank will take back the money and put it in the correct account. The bank does not have to request permission or otherwise notify you they will be removing the erroneously deposited funds.

If you spent any of this money, you will be responsible for paying it back. And you could also face criminal charges for theft.

In addition, if your balance goes negative, your bank can charge you overdraft fees of $30 to $35 per transaction and an additional extended overdraft fee if you can not quickly reverse the shortfall.

Article Sources

  1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "How Do I Get My Money Back After I Discovered an Unauthorized Transaction or Money Missing From My Bank Account?" Accessed April 17, 2020.

  2. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. "A Deposit Was Credited to My Account by Mistake. Does the Bank Have to Get My Permission Before Removing the Funds?" Accessed April 17, 2020.

  3. North Carolina Consumers Council. "Are You Ever Allowed to Spend Money That Was Mistakenly Deposited Into Your Bank Account?" Accessed April 17, 2020.

  4. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Know Your Overdraft Options," Page 1. Accessed April 17, 2020.