How To Get A Checking Account: Solutions For The "Underbanked"

There are three types of unbanked or underbanked people:

1) Immigrants who lack enough paperwork to obtain banking services.

2) People who have had too many checks bounce or whose credit is so terrible that they can’t get banking services.

3) People who distrust or fear banks for whatever reason.

This post is aimed at the second type of person and lists resources that can help those with a troubled past get back on the straight and narrow.

According to Bankrate, there are 40-60 million people who are underbanked and many of them need help to get back in the game. If you’ve been turned away because of your credit report, Bankrate says you might just want to try another bank. Not all banks run your credit for a checking account. If you’ve bounced too many checks, you might want to look for a bank that doesn’t deal with the check reporting agencies. Here are Bankrate’s recommended steps:

• Take a class.
Visit for information regarding classes that you can complete for a fee that will give you the skills you need to open and keep a checking account. Many banks will allow persons who complete the class a second chance.
• Open a savings account first.
To open a savings account you need only have the minimum deposit amount. Use the account responsibly for several months and then approach the bank for a checking account. Better yet, if you are able, purchase a certificate of deposit and ask that you receive a checking account in return.
• Find a bank that does not use national check reporting bureaus.
If you’ve had a bad experience with a previous checking account, find a bank that does not use the check reporting agencies. Not all banks use these specialty bureaus for new accounts. One resource you can check for banks in your state is

Getting Back Check-Writing Privileges [Bankrate]
(Photo: DCVision2006)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Greeper says:

    Something tells me that people who can’t figure out how to get a checking account aren’t exactly getting RSS feeds from consumerist. I’m just saying. It reminds me of the Jerry Seinfeld hoke about the 1-900 number at the bottom of TV Guide crossword puzzles (“I’m just wondering…if you can’t figure out the TV GUide crossword puzzle, how can you possible afford 99 cents a minute????”)

  2. Greeper says:

    hoke = joke

  3. MandM813 says:

    I had trouble getting a checking account for a while. Citibank had falsely sent me to Chexsystems, accusing me of closing my account with them while still having an outstanding balance (I closed my account because they sucked, but did NOT have any outstanding balance). It took several months for them to correct their mistake, and during that time, several banks declined to give me a checking account. I didn’t read Consumerist back then, this was a couple of years ago, but the point is that this information can be useful to anyone.

    Maybe people who visit this site know a friend or relative who will find the information useful. I appreciate that Consumerist offers information and advice for people in all economic situations, hopefully they won’t let comments such as these prevent them from doing so in the future :)

  4. ING Direct ( provides great rates and easy setup for savings accounts and CD’s, with no minimum. And I mean seriously great rates — 4.5% savings and 5.35% for a 12-mo. CD. I’m more than happy with their checking too, it’s simple enough to work for me, and I really need simple — plus, it has 4.25% interest and 1% cash back on signature purchases with the debit card. I really can’t speak highly enough of them… They were my first bank and will likely be my only ever bank. I’m looking into setting up an IRA with their mother-company, ING, too.

    Note: The percentage rates are in APY for interest and the cash-back is paid monthly.

  5. kamel5547 says:

    There are banks that report people for other reasons than bad checking, a friend of mine got on the “no checking list” when she couldn’t make her student loan payments. Her lender simply reported her for that, even hough it wasn’t poor managing of her money (she really just couldn’t make the payments due to changes in her life).

  6. MoCo says:

    “Immigrants who lack enough paperwork to obtain banking services”?

    No such thing. You must be talking about illegal aliens, not immigrants. Easy solution: Report self to ICE for deportation, go back home, get checking account in your country.

  7. rmz says:

    In that picture, does that shop just have a Western Union sign with the logo covered up by the word “LOANS”?

    I’m pretty sure “the fastest way to send money worldwide” is Western Union’s slogan.

  8. Floobtronics says:

    I’ve read several tales of people who can’t get checking accounts because banks run credit checks.

    I’ve had checking accounts at several different banks going way back, like to the early 80s, when I was about 10 (had a paper route, needed a way to pay for my papers). I have never once, not even a single time, consented to a credit check in order to obtain a checking account.

    Why does one need a credit check to obtain a checking account anyhow? I could see the requirement *if* the account included overdraft protection. But how many accounts do that? If your account doesn’t have sufficient funds, the bank bounces the check and you’re left to deal with the creditor. The bank isn’t stuck holding the bag.

  9. @Floobtronics: Mine has overdraft credit of $165 that I wish wasn’t there so I didn’t have to worry about accidentaly using it.

  10. otherdeb says:

    Hi — Thank you so much for this article. Thanks to you, I now have a working checking account, and a small savings account. Once the school year begins (I work in a high school), I will be setting up direct deposit for my paycheck.

    I had ended up being sent to Chex Systems because a supposed friend bounced over $800 on me, and then did not have the money to cover it. It took me over a year to pay the bank back, by which time they had reported me.

    One thing, though. Instead of paying CreditServicer, I found a website for victims of Chex Systems, and their forums had the same information for free. Still, if it had not been for your article, I would not even have known waht to search for. Thanks again!