“Banking Blacklists” Cause Consumer Headaches
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — You’ve heard of credit reporting agencies but did you know there are companies tracking your banking history and any money mistakes you make? Most banks look at your consumer report before allowing you to open a checking or savings account. If your record is not good, you could end up literally “blacklisted by banks.”
Natasha Carmon pays her bills by driving to individual businesses, then going inside and settling up with cash or a money order.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Carmon said.
Frustrating because she would rather pay by check, but each time Natasha tried to open a checking account at several different banks she said she got the same surprising news.
“They all denied me and they all said that it’s because you owe this bank ‘x amount’ of dollars,” Carmon said.
She said four years ago she got hit with a bank fee and when she could not pay it the charges piled up and her account was closed.
“The fees just got so extreme that I couldn’t keep that up,” she said.
Unpaid fees and involuntary account closures are just some money mistakes banks and credit unions may report to two different tracking companies - Chex Systems and Early Warning. These consumer reporting agencies receive information about people who have had financial mishaps or even fraudulently bounced checks. Before they approve a new account many banks check your past records with these companies.
“It’s a good indication of whether the person can manage the account and what risk they present of causing the bank to lose money,” said Nessa Feddis of the American Bankers Association.
An FDIC survey reveals 65-percent of banks deny checking account applicants who have prior mismanagement in their consumer reports.
“A consumer who bounced a check once is not a deadbeat, a consumer who bounced a check once may not even have made a conscious mistake,” said Ed Mierzwinski of the National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups.
Mierzwinski said potentially millions of Americans are “blacklisted from banks” and consumer advocates worry financial institutions could be shutting out some people whose records were dinged by accident.
“There could have been an automatic payment that the consumer had canceled but the company by mistake continued to try to take out of their account, and that is happening more and more often today,” Mierzwinski said.
Federal law says you can request a free banking history report each year, and dispute any incorrect information. Chex Systems said if consumers find errors it is ”committed to resolving all such disputes as quickly as possible.” Early Warning declined comment.
As for Natasha, she said she is going to have to keep hitting the road to pay her bills, at least for now.
“I don’t like it but until I can find a bank who is willing to give me a checking account, then that’s the options that I have,” she said.
The American Bankers Association says banks do not report you if you overdraw your account but take care of it. When you don’t pay the overdraft fee, though, that could cause you to have trouble getting accounts in the future.
Some banks offer alternative “cash only pre-paid card” accounts for people who can’t get traditional accounts. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regulates these reporting practices. You can find information on those regulations by clicking here.