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I have an old checking account, at a bank I no longer use (it's my only account there), with just a few cents in it. There are no account fees. Are there any reasons why I should or should not close the account?

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  • I can't give an accurate answer, but doesn't the US Credit Score take into account potential draw-down ? If this account can go into overdraft then its mere existence should affect your credit score.
    – Criggie
    Nov 18, 2022 at 0:30
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    @Criggie how does having overdrafteble accounts affect your score?
    – Someone
    Nov 18, 2022 at 1:32
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    (@Criggie) I don't know if it's still true because I cancelled 'overdraft protection' when Dodd-Frank allowed me to, but in the oughties my 'overdraft credit line' did appear on my credit bureau reports (free each year per FACTA) -- and remained several years after I closed the checking account it applied to. I have no idea how much, or even if, it affected my score(s). Nov 18, 2022 at 5:22
  • @Someone If you have an outstanding debt which gets submitted to a collection agency then your score will be affected. This holds true for utility bills, construction bills, overdraft bills, etc...
    – MonkeyZeus
    Nov 18, 2022 at 14:14
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    @MonkeyZeus yeah a negative balance would affect the score, but how would the mere existence of an account that can be overdrafted affect it?
    – Someone
    Nov 18, 2022 at 15:25

7 Answers 7

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TL;DR

Read your ToS.


Chase Bank will happily close your account:

Either you or we may close your account (other than a CD) at any time for any reason or no reason without prior notice.

https://money.stackexchange.com/a/152752/25694

Aside from it unexpectedly closing, if a bad actor get's a hold of your account information then they could use it to launder money and leave you with a hefty negative balance after the scam unravels.


You asked: "Does it hurt anything to have an unused checking account?"

My rebuttal: "What benefit does an unused checking account serve?"

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    Was about to post similar, so just adding here: They don't charge fees now, but you'll have to pay attention in case they change policy. At the minimum an unused account is something you have to monitor.
    – Hart CO
    Nov 17, 2022 at 14:59
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    More succinctly: used or not, you are still responsible for the account.
    – chepner
    Nov 17, 2022 at 16:19
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    I think a common reason to think that keeping an account open is good, is that the age of one's accounts matters on credit reports.
    – lazarusL
    Nov 17, 2022 at 17:15
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    @lazarusL Umm, credit reports care about credit accounts. Liquid assets are not calculated into your credit score.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Nov 17, 2022 at 17:35
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    @Joshua More often than not the initial terms state that they can change the terms at any time and unless you explicitly reject them and close your account in doing so then they go into effect. A dramatic change such as a maintenance fee would usually be communicated weeks or months in advance. If you're simply not worth the hassle then they close your account per the quote in my answer.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Nov 17, 2022 at 20:11
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I've had an issue with my bank where I was charged $30 for a fee because they didn't give me enough notice of the account being dormant.

You said you don't use it anymore, it is better to have it closed because aside from your cents being gone, they might ask you to pay for a dormant fee before they remove your name from their records, or worse, you might have a bad record just because of not paying the dormant fee.

Make sure to check with your bank to see if you'll be paying fees for your account and if so, what are the fees. In addition, some banks may not be interested in holding a small amount of money.

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  • "There are no account fees." if true (+1) is why you never close this account. Has no fees and no minimum balance? Actually "free" checking, like it used to be and never will again? Lemme co-sign and then you opt out.
    – Mazura
    Nov 19, 2022 at 21:48
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The credit unions I have known about have the requirement of a minimum $5.00 balance in a savings account to remain a member.

But the thing to watch for is the activity requirement. They want transactions each year. It can be checks, deposits in person, by direct deposit, or over the web interface. Once you go a year or two without any transactions they start charging an inactivity fee. Which can eventually drain your account. And then lead to closure.

Another thing to consider is that if you ignore it you may discover that the technology has changed, and you didn't establish an online login under the new system, and then years go by. When you want to use it again the phone number, and the address linked to the account is old. You forgot your security answers, and you have to visit in person to get back into the system.

Unless you know you will be going back to that location, and it would be impossible to reopen the account once it is closed, I would close it.

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I know most banks have a minimum maintaining balance. I don't think there is any harm in having an unused checking account. The account will remain open as long as you continue to meet the bank's requirements, such as keeping a minimum balance.

You can choose to have it closed if you don't foresee using it in the future. I say keep it, especially if there are no account fees or minimum balance required. Who knows, you might be using it in the future.

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    No, even with minimum balance banks will sometimes close accounts that have no activity (the words you're looking for are dormant or abandoned). Sometimes they will even charge a fee for allowing the account to go dormant! Nov 18, 2022 at 19:32
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Your bank might continue sending you correspondence about that dormant account (statements, checks, debit cards). It's more trash to take out and potentially a vulnerability (like someone might find your checks, use them and cause overdrafts).

Also, the bank might start paying interest on the remaining balance which needs to be reported to IRS. Not an issue if the balance is just a few cents though.

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    They don't send correspondence about it (no checks, my old debit card is valid for several years, and statements are paperless), but I will probably close it.
    – Someone
    Nov 17, 2022 at 15:03
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    This is inapplicable when dealing with Santander because they mailed me the largest stack of paper I have ever received in the mail (something about their new TOS) months after they sent me a letter confirming my account closure. In fact, they probably mailed me more paper after I closed my account than all other banks combined while I had an account with them.
    – UTF-8
    Nov 18, 2022 at 11:22
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If you leave the account unused (where there is no activity at all) then the account is often marked dormant. What happens next varies from state-to-state, but eventually your account may be considered escheat and held by the state

Escheat is a government’s right to property if it is unclaimed for any reason after a period of time. Escheat rights can be granted by a court of law or given following a standard time period. In the case of death with no will or heirs, escheat rights may be granted to a state in a probate decision.

Escheat is more commonly known as "unclaimed property", and every state has a government agency to deal with it (here's California's office, for example). It usually happens when someone owes money to someone, but they can't legally transfer it to the rightful owner. With bank accounts, the escheat rules are meant to ensure that accounts that have been forgotten (i.e grandma had a bank account but got dementia and never told anyone) are handled properly. It usually means you have to go through a process to reclaim your property

The bank may be able to tell you what happened to the account or safe deposit box. It may still be at the bank, or maybe the owner closed it years ago. Or the bank may have determined that the account or safe deposit box was abandoned, so they transferred the contents to the state. This process is called escheatment, and every state has laws requiring financial institutions to turn over abandoned property after a certain amount of time, usually between three to five years. If the account was closed a long time ago, the bank may no longer have any record of it.

Granted, this is a small sum of money in your case, but even still, your account will eventually be marked dormant and may be held by your local state government until you (or your heirs) claim it.

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I'm surprised no one has mentioned one of the big reasons to close an unused checking account that is their only account at a bank:

  • Because it prohibits you from obtaining the "New Customer Bonus" if you want to ever open an account at that bank.

Many banks, especially when interest rates are high, offer attractive bonuses to lure in new customers. Those bonuses are often reserved to new customers. By keeping an old unused account around, you likely will not qualify for those bonuses.

If you close that account, you may qualify for such bonuses in the near future.

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