What Is Second Chance Banking?

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Author : Chris Morgan
Updated on : July 19th, 2021

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Having a proper checking account is important for being able to manage your money and store it safely. However, for those who have been denied a new checking account, things can quickly go from bad to worse.

If you’re having trouble getting a regular checking account, a second chance bank like Chime may be the one for you. A second chance checking account can offer you many of the same benefits of a regular checking account while you get your finances back on track.

Why Was I Denied For A Checking Account?

There can be many reasons why a bank will deny you from a new checking account. Most of them have to do with your past banking history.

For example, you may have had multiple overdrafts, failed to maintain a minimum balance, or tried to close an account with a negative balance. Any of these issues with any major bank in the U.S. can affect your ability to open a new checking account.

This is because your banking history is tracked by three reporting agencies: ChexSystems, Early Warning Services, and TeleCheck. When you try to open a new account, the bank will check your information against databases maintained by these three agencies. They will deny customers that are considered too high-risk.

What is ChexSystems?

ChexSystems is a consumer reporting agency that keeps track of your checking and savings account activity.

Similar to a credit score, ChexSystems takes different factors from your banking history into account to calculate a “banking score,” known as your ChexSystems Consumer Score. This score ranges from 100 to 899, where a higher score means you’re at a lower risk to banks.

When you apply for a new checking account, the bank may request to see your ChexSystems Consumer Score and ChexSystems report. If your score is too low, or your report has too many bad marks, you may be denied. Examples of bad marks on a ChexSystems report include:

  • Bounced checks & check writing history
  • Non-sufficient funds fees
  • Outstanding debts
  • Fraudulent activity
  • Information about closed accounts

Any bad marks will stay on your ChexSystems report for five years. You can request a free copy of your ChexSystems report here. If you find any errors on your report, you have the right to dispute them with ChexSystems.

What is Early Warning Services (EWS)?

Early Warning Services (EWS) is another consumer reporting agency with a focus on detecting fraud. It is co-owned by Bank of America, Truist, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, PNC Bank, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo.

When an institution is trying to decide whether to open a new checking account or accept a check, they may use information from Early Warning. If you’re found to be high-risk, your account application or check may be denied.

Once every 12 months, you can request a free copy of your EWS report here. Bad marks typically stay on your EWS report for seven years. As with ChexSystems, you can dispute any errors you find on your report with Early Warning.

What is TeleCheck?

TeleCheck is the third major consumer reporting agency banks refer to when considering new checking accounts. Your TeleCheck report will contain much of the same information as the other two agencies.

TeleCheck is most often used when you pay a merchant by check. If TeleCheck approves the transaction, the merchant will have no problems accepting the check. Otherwise, you may get a decline code which you can look up on TeleCheck’s website for more details on why your check was bounced.

As with ChexSystems and EWS, you can request a free copy of your TeleCheck report and dispute any errors you find.


What Are Second Chance Checking Accounts?

Banks that offer second chance checking accounts acknowledge that you may have had banking problems in the past. These banks will still use ChexSystems, EWS, and TeleCheck to view your banking history just like other banks.

However, unless you owe the bank money, they will let you open a checking account with them anyway, hence the name “second chance” checking account.

We highly recommend opening a second chance checking account if you are unable to get a standard checking account.

Second Chance Banking vs. Non-ChexSystems Banking

It’s important to note that there’s a difference between a second chance bank account and a non-ChexSystems bank account. Second chance banks still use ChexSystems--they’re just willing to overlook your history and give you an account anyway.

On the other hand, a non-ChexSystems bank will not be aware of any bad marks you may have on your ChexSystems report. The catch is that such banks are rare. If you’re lucky enough to find one, you may be able to open a standard checking account with them.

However, even if you are able to build up a positive banking history with a non-ChexSystems bank, other ChexSystems banks will be unaware of this. Practically, going for a second chance banking account is the right choice for most people.

Second Chance Checking Account vs. Standard Checking Account

A second chance checking account has the same basic functions as a standard checking account. This includes the ability to deposit and withdraw money, and a free debit card.

However, second chance checking accounts usually have more limitations. For example, there might be a lower limit on how much you are allowed to withdraw in a day. They may also have a maximum spending limit per transaction.

What To Look For In A Second Chance Checking Account

A good second chance checking account should have the following qualities:

  • Low or no monthly fees ($10/month or below is considered reasonable)
  • Free debit card
  • No overdraft fees--the transaction will be denied if you have insufficient funds
  • Ability to write checks
  • Ability to upgrade to standard checking account after months of good standing

In addition to having low monthly fees, the best second chance checking accounts waive this fee if you hit a certain deposit amount per month. Avoid banks that charge extra fees for things such as paper statements or account inactivity.


Who Needs A Second Chance Checking Account?

Anyone who does not have a standard checking account due to being rejected multiple times should definitely get a second chance checking account. This will allow you to build up a positive banking history.


A checking account is still one of the safest places to keep your money. Most second chance banks are FDIC-insured, meaning they’ll protect up to $250,000 of your money. This is much safer than, say, keeping your money in cash hidden in a safe.


Frequently Asked Questions About Second Chance Banking

For those wondering about second chance banking, here are some commonly asked questions and their answers.

What Do You Need To Apply For a Second Chance Checking Account?

Any reputable bank will have you fill out an application to open a second chance checking account. Typically, you’ll also need to have the following ready:

  • Your Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship and residency
  • Driver’s license or other U.S. issued ID
  • Your address
  • Initial deposit, if necessary

For most banks, the application is immediately processed. You won’t need to visit a physical bank to open an account.

Is It Possible To Be Denied a Second Chance Account?

Usually, you will be accepted for a second chance account right away. However, there is a small chance that you will be rejected, either because you don’t meet the specific requirements of the bank, or you may have too much negative history with them.

If you’re denied by one bank, try applying for a second chance account at another bank. In most cases, you’ll be able to find one bank that’s willing to open an account for you.

If I’m Denied a Second Chance Account, What Are My Other Options?

If you’re unable to open a second chance account, you still have other options. These include prepaid debit cards, secured credit cards, and online e-wallets. We’ll talk more about each of these at the end of the article.

Do Second Chance Accounts Require an Initial Deposit or Minimum Balance?

Many second chance accounts do require an initial deposit, although some do not. Most second chance banks do not have a minimum balance requirement. Be sure to check both of these with your bank and avoid those with initial deposits and minimum balance requirements that are too high.

Do Second Chance Accounts Have Monthly Fees?

Many second chance accounts have monthly fees, although some do not. It’s reasonable for a second chance checking account to have a monthly fee of $10 or below. We recommend avoiding accounts with a monthly fee of $15 or more.

Can You Apply For a Second Chance Account From Anywhere in the U.S.?

Not every bank operates in all 50 U.S. states. Certain banks may have restrictions on where customers can open accounts. However, most of the major banks (such as Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, etc.) do allow applicants from anywhere in the U.S.


Top Second Chance Banking Options

If you’re looking for a good second chance banking account, here is our top pick.

Chime®


Chime Logo

Chime’s mission is to make banking helpful, easy, and free for everyone. As a result, they do not run your credit or check your ChexSystems report when you apply to any of their checking and savings accounts.

Chime is technically not a bank. Instead, they are a relatively new financial technology company that offers banking services provided through The Bancorp Bank, N.A. and Stride Bank, N.A., meaning that their products are still FDIC insured. Here’s why you should consider their Chime Checking accounts and Chime Savings accounts.

  • No fees1. Both the Chime Checking and the Chime Savings have no monthly service fees and no minimum balance requirements. You are also eligible for fee-free overdraft up to $200 with their SpotMe® feature2.
  • Round up your savings. Chime Spending and Chime Savings are designed to be used in conjunction with each other. You can round up all your transactions to the nearest dollar and deposit the difference into your Chime Savings account. If you want a surefire way to build up your savings over time, this is a great way to do so.
  • High interest yield3. Chime Savings currently comes with a high interest yield of 2.00% APY*. This is multiple times the national average of all savings accounts4.

Alternatives To Second Chance Banking

If you cannot secure a second chance account or don’t want to get one, you still have some other options. Note that we still recommend that you get a second chance checking account if possible.

Prepaid Debit Cards

A prepaid debit card is very similar to a regular debit card, but it’s not attached to a bank account. Instead of depositing money into a bank account at an ATM, you can add money to your prepaid debit card at retail stores like Walmart, Walgreens, or online.

The main negative of prepaid debit cards is the extra fees. You’ll usually have to pay a monthly maintenance fee, along with potential fees every time you add money to it. These fees are easily avoided with the two second chance banking accounts we recommended above.

Secured Credit Cards

Credit unions and repair agencies may offer ways for you to get a secured credit card as a means to help improve your credit score.

Your credit limit on a secured credit card is equal to the amount you initially deposit. For example, the First Progress Platinum Select Mastercard Secured Credit Card requires a minimum deposit of $200. If you deposited $300, your credit limit is $300. You would then have to pay off the card every month similar to a regular credit card. Over a longer period of time, provided you paid off the card every month, you’ll get your deposit back.

A secured credit card is a great option for those looking to build credit and eventually apply for a regular credit card. However, a second chance account is still a better option for those simply looking to build up banking history.

Banner FP Platinum select mastercard secured

Online E-Wallets

Online e-wallets are becoming more and more common. These function as online debit accounts that let you deposit and withdraw funds, as well as pay online.

Some services like PayPal even offer a debit card--the PayPal Cash Card. This debit card is directly linked to your PayPal balance, and you can even use the card at ATMs fee-free. The PayPal Cash Card also has no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements.

However, not all online e-wallets should be trusted. Exercise caution and do your research before using these services.


Conclusion and Next Steps

Second chance banking is a chance for those with a poor banking history to get back on track financially. After many months of positive history with a second chance account, banks will recognize this and offer you opportunities to apply for standard checking accounts again. 

If you’re in need of a second chance with the banks, we highly recommend checking out Chime. They offer competitive second chance accounts that can help you rebuild your banking history on the right foot.

Our Top Pick for Banks that Don't Use ChexSystems is Chime.

Chime Logo

When doing research, Credit Help Info relies on credible and authoritative sites. These research sources are provided so that you can see exactly where we get our information.

Disclosures:

Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by The Bancorp Bank, N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A., Members FDIC.

1. There’s no fee for the Chime Savings Account. Cash withdrawal and Third-party fees may apply to Chime Checking Accounts. You must have a Chime Checking Account to open a Account.

2. Chime SpotMe is an optional service that requires a single deposit of $200 or more in qualifying direct deposits to the Chime Checking Account each month. All qualifying members w overdraw their account up to $20 on debit card purchases and cash withdrawals initially, but may be later eligible for a higher limit of up to $200 or more based on member's Chime Ac deposit frequency and amount, spending activity and other risk-based factors. Your limit will be displayed to you within the Chime mobile app. You will receive notice of any changes to may change at any time, at Chime's discretion. Although there are no overdraft fees, there may be out-of-network or third party fees associated with ATM transactions. SpotMe won't c transactions, including ACH transfers, Pay Anyone transfers, or Chime Checkbook transactions. See Terms and Conditions.

*The Annual Percentage Yield (“APY”) for the Chime Savings Account is variable and may change at any time. The disclosed APY is accurate as of November 17, 2022. No minimum balance required. Must have $0.01 in savings to earn interest.

The average national savings account interest rate of 0.21% is determined by FDIC as of November 17, 2022 based on a simple average of rates paid (uses annual percentage yield) by all insured depository institutions and branches for which data are available. Visit National Rates and Rate Caps to learn more.


About the Author

Chris Morgan

Chris Morgan is a credit expert and founder of Credit Help Info. He has been featured in Addition Financial, GOBankingRates, MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, and many other publications. He has read hundreds of books and resources on finance and the credit industry. Because he did this, you don’t have to. As a school teacher for over 20 years, Chris enjoys taking complicated material and breaking it down into manageable information that’s easy to understand.


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