Should I Have Bank Accounts At the Same Bank I Owe Money To?

By Ryan C. Wood

Most people have at least one bank they are loyal to and have multiple types of accounts with that bank. I am sure that whatever bank you currently do business with (such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, Citibank, San Mateo Credit Union, Fremont Bank, credit unions, or any other bank) offers you incentives and seemingly great deals to open another type of account with them. The new account could be a credit card, car loan, a mortgage or home equity loan, or home equity line of credit. This is a great opportunity for the banks to easily obtain more business from you since you are already a customer. Unless you hate your bank you would most likely take the bank up on the offer if you need that additional service. You are probably thinking that you need that service anyway so why not with a bank that you already know and trust? You can see all your accounts on one screen and take care of the payments easier and more efficiently. That is exactly what the banks want you to think and feel.

If everything in your life is going great there would be no issues with having multiple bank accounts, a credit card, car loan or a mortgage and line of credit with the same bank. What happens once you have a financial setback though? What happens if you are unable to continue paying on one or more of the debts owed to the bank? At this point you should highly consider speaking with a bankruptcy lawyer to assess your situation. Think of it this way: your accounts are a one-stop-shop for the banks as well. Are your credit cards cross collateralized with your vehicle loan? If so then you will not get the pink slip to the vehicle unless you pay all the credit card debt too. If you are unable to make your credit card payments for a period of time, guess what? Under certain circumstances banks can take the money you owe them from your bank accounts. How can the banks do this, you ask? This process is called a “setoff” and you gave them permission to do this when you signed up for the extra credit card, car loan or home mortgage. You don’t remember giving them permission? It is probably part of the small print under the terms and conditions of the loan or credit card that you probably never read and never knew that you would be giving the banks permission to do this.

If you have a credit card with a bank that you do not have a bank account with, the bank would need to sue you first and obtain a judgment against you before they can levy your bank account. This is not necessary if you have a bank account with the bank you owe money to. They can just take it from your bank account. It will get worse if you wrote a check to pay a bill not knowing that the bank already took some money out of the bank account and then the check bounces. You would then be hit with an NSF and be charged multiple fees by the bank. Most of my clients have the same response when I advise them of this practice. They say, “Oh, the bank will never do that to me! I’ve been a loyal customer for 20 years!” As a bankruptcy attorney that has filed hundreds and hundreds of bankruptcy cases I can tell you that banks are not people; they do not have feelings. They do not care if you have been a customer for 1 year or 10 years. Banks are in the business to make money. Bottom line: do not have bank accounts at the same bank where you owe money.