What is ChexSystems?

ChexSystems is an agency that doesn’t get much attention from financial experts or publications. However, it is a nationwide consumer reporting agency that operates under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

ChexSystems collects information about your banking habits from financial institution partners and shares that information with its clients. Financial services companies pay ChexSystems to access the information to determine the risk of opening an account with a new customer.

ChexSystems Explained

The ChexSystems, Inc. network comprises member financial institutions that regularly contribute information on mishandled checking and savings accounts to a central location. ChexSystems shares this information among member institutions to help them assess the risk of opening new accounts. ChexSystems only shares information with the member institutions; it does not decide on new account openings. Generally, information remains on ChexSystems for five years.

How Banks and Credit Unions Use ChexSystems

Many financial institutions report your banking relationship to Chexsystems or another agency like TeleCheck. Banks and credit unions are not required to report information but many do. It’s their way of sharing information on potentially abusive banking relationships. The information found in your Chexsystems report may be the cause of the denial to use banking services.

Banks and credit unions report information such as recent account openings, unrecovered NSF (non-sufficient funds) fees, and excessive overdraft activities.

If a financial institution has lost money due to bounced checks, unpaid fees, or overdrawn accounts, it reports that information to Chexsystems.

Chexsystems reports include:

Activity Description When It’s Deleted
Involuntary Account Closure A banking account closed “for cause” (e.g., negative balance, bad checks were written, etc.) After 5 years (unless you successfully dispute the listing or the financial institution or ChexSystems deletes the listing sooner)
Bounced Checks and/or Overdrafts Abusive bounce checks and multiple occurrences
Unpaid Negative Balances Outstanding overdraft or insufficient funds (NSF) fees or other account charges
Savings Account, Debit Card or ATM Abuse For risky or dishonest behavior (i.e., depositing fake checks, empty envelopes at ATM)
Outstanding Checks in SCAN Database of Returned Checks & Instances of Fraud Checks issued or sent to a collection agency; returned or fraudulent checks
Suspected Fraud or Identity Theft Providing false info on an application or altering checks
Inquiries Applying for new accounts that you initiate, a bank, an employer, a creditor, or other “permitted” party If initiated by you: after 90 days or no more than 3 years; Otherwise, after 5 years.
Lost Checks & Debit Cards Financial institutions may routinely share information. It’s not specifically negative but can indicate potential fraud. After 5 years or deletion after successfully disputing the listing or is deleted by the financial institution or ChexSystems sooner.
Check-Ordering History from the Past 3 Years
Number of Accounts Applied for in the Past 90 Days
Social Security Number/Driver’s License Validation and/or Verification

For an example of a Chexsystems report, click here and view.

Who can request your Chexsystems Report?

Chexsystems is a private company that operates under federal law. Consumer protection law ensures the accuracy of your information and your rights to privacy. You can request your consumer report, and others with legal rights can, too.

From the Chexsystems website, examples of legitimate requests include:

  • According to your written instructions
  • A business transaction initiated by you
  • Pursuant to a court order or federal grand jury subpoena
  • Your application for a license or other benefit granted by the government as required by law
  • A child support determination, under certain circumstances

How is Chexsystem Important to Financial Wellness

Having negative information on Chexsystems can limit your ability to use the best banking products. It can impact your wallet.

If you are unable to open a new checking account or get a debit card, it can easily become financial stress.

The unfortunate reality of a negative ChexSystems report is the inability to open new accounts from traditional financial institutions. This can make a person become “unbanked” and “underserved” by the financial services industry. In a Nerdwallet article, an unbanked person pays on average $183 just to access their money. It places a bigger burden on those who make less than $20,000 a year.

How to Get Your Chexsystems Report

You can request a copy of your report directly from Chexsystems once every year. It’s good practice to review your ChexSystems report annually to verify its accuracy and challenge any inaccuracies.

Additionally, if you’ve been denied an account because of information from Chexsystems, you have the right to request a copy of your report within 60 days. Requesting your report online or through automated telephone systems states that reports will be sent within 5 days.

Once you get your ChexSystems report, review the information found in the pages, and dispute Chexsystem report inaccuracies and errors through the online system or by sending a dispute letter.

How to Avoid Negative Information Reporting to Chexsystems

  1. Communicate with your banking relationships. Explain your situation and, if necessary, agree to a plan to pay off outstanding charges and fees related to checking accounts and debit card usage.
  2. Have an account overdraft plan. Connect your checking account with a savings account or line of credit. Gain peace of mind and avoid overdraft fees.
  3. Ensure automatic withdrawals are switched from closed accounts. Once you’ve closed an account, verify that automatic withdrawals have been changed. Review statements for a year to identify monthly, quarterly, or annual withdrawals that are done automatically.
  4. Review your Chexsystems report once every 12 months. Don’t wait until you’ve been denied a new checking account. Review your report, ensure information is accurate, and help prevent identity theft.

One last thing: not every financial institution uses Chexsystems in its decision-making. Many do, and you can inquire before you complete an application. Remember, financial institutions can also use other consumer reports, like credit reports, in their decision-making.

Check the phroogal financial marketplace to find alternative banking options that may meet your needs.