Consumers sometimes wonder if their checking account history affects their credit report, or, conversely, if banks require a credit report to open a checking account. Some online banks have started to implement the practice, but it's not very common. An overdraft here or there won't show up on a FICO score, but it can show up on an internal database used by many banks.
In this article, learn how banking accounts and credit history are linked and why it's in a consumer's best interest to maintain both good credit and sound banking history.
What You Should Know About ChexSystems
While banks don't check credit reports in the traditional sense, there is a special report that banks can pull from ChexSystems. In addition to an internal application and identity verification, banks typically query a database on potential clients. Adding this mechanism provides an extra risk assessment tool for banks, one that consumers should be aware of.
ChexSystems reports aren't as well known as FICO scores or credit bureaus, but consumers are entitled to one free ChexSystems report per year. This specialty report remains separate from traditional credit scoring systems. As with your credit report, It's a good idea to periodically review the information in your ChexSystems file to make sure everything is correct. Information remains on the report for five years, which is a bit less than the standard for credit scoring, which is typically seven to 10 years.
Will ChexSystems Data Affect Your Ability to Open an Account?
Pulling ChexSystems data doesn't pose a threat to most consumers. Unlike the scads of information collected by the credit bureaus, ChexSystems mainly reports on larger issues: uncollected overdraft fees, number of accounts, repeated overdraft fees, or fraud. Many banks allow customers to write statements explaining smaller issues, like racking up overdraft fees during a period of unemployment.
Some consumers enjoy hopping from one bank to the next to acquire "freebies." This can cost account jumpers in the long term if banks see a pattern of behavior and refuse to open accounts.
A bank can deny customers the opportunity to open an account with them if the data given by ChexSystems shows a pattern of risky or fraudulent behavior. Make sure to check the free report annually to scan for any potential errors. You can correct errors on your ChexSystems report by filing a dispute with ChexSystems. It usually completes investigations within 30 days.
You can add a statement of up to 100 words (200 if you're a Maine resident) to your ChexSystems file to explain negative information. You might want to consider this option if you have negative information due to unemployment, medical bills, or other life events.
Bank Accounts Are Indirectly Tied to Your Credit
Just because the credit report doesn't affect your checking account, however, doesn't mean the reverse isn't true. Lenders will require a checking account when applying for a loan or line of credit. Often, spending habits and account balances are monitored to ensure a pattern of responsible behavior. A client in the market for a mortgage, for example, might throw up a red flag if thousands of dollars of shoe purchases or charges from Best Buy appear on a bank statement right before closing.
Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, but avoiding overdraft fees and maintaining solid banking habits can pay off in the long run. Bank accounts can impact your credit, so budgeting now could save you thousands in interest down the road. If you do get into an overdraft situation, work with the bank to resolve it as quickly as possible. Keep another account connected to your checking account or consider opening a line of credit with your bank that can be used for overdraft protection.