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Big bank drops a barrier to the unbanked

Databases intended to weed out fraudsters have been used to restrict consumers' access to the banking system, but that may change.

By MSN Money Partner Jun 18, 2014 1:38PM

This post comes from Krystal Steinmetz at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyImagine having a few bounced checks from your college years (which you paid back, plus the overdraft fees) come back to haunt you years later, preventing you from opening a new bank account. Sounds harsh, right?

It's the unfortunate reality for more than 1 million Americans who have essentially been banned from the conventional financial system because of overdrafts and bounced checks -- common offenses for young and low-income consumers.

Bank sign © John Foxx, Stockbyte, Getty ImagesPrivate consumer databases like ChexSystems keep a record of such transgressions. Says The New York Times:

Such databases, used by Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and other big banks, were intended to weed out serial fraudsters. Now, regulators say, banks are screening out potential customers and swelling the ranks of the so-called unbanked -- the roughly 10 million households in the United States that lack even a basic bank account.

Complaints that banks were using the databases to screen potential customers and deny service to many poor consumers got the attention of Eric T. Schneiderman, New York's attorney general. Schneiderman's office began investigating banks to see if they were improperly denying or restricting access to consumers, the Times said.

Schneiderman's efforts are starting to pay off. Capital One agreed on Monday to use ChexSystems solely to restrict customers who end up on the database for fraud.

In other words, Capital One is going to start using the database for its intended purpose, rather than blacklisting some people for past bounced checks or overdrafts. According to Bloomberg:

Schneiderman praised Capital One's willingness to "eliminate an unnecessary barrier to opening a checking or savings account" and urged other banks to follow its lead.
Capital One, the fifth-biggest U.S. credit card lender, was pleased the agreement worked to "expand access to critical banking services to all New Yorkers," Kleber Santos, a bank official, said in a statement.

Capital One's new policy will be implemented nationwide by the end of the year, Bloomberg said.

I overdrew my checking account a few times in my college days. I was too lazy to balance my checking account. I can't imagine how upsetting it would be to have mistakes I made as a teen or young adult impact my ability to open a new bank account years later.

Is this a step in the right direction for Capital One? Do you think other big banks will follow its lead?

More from Money Talks News

Jun 18, 2014 4:31PM
This along with Bogus Credit Card Scores are just some of the many Ways The Banking System gouges from the Working Poor and Fading Middle-Class.
Jun 19, 2014 6:47AM
With regard to credit cards, those who can least afford it pay the fees, etc. whereas those who completely understand the use of credit cards, especially bonuses and cash back, reap the rewards. 

From one generally poor group to a generally affluent group.
Jun 19, 2014 7:49AM
Jun 19, 2014 1:19PM

the best way for our gov't to control everyone's money (lives) is to make everyone think they are doing them a favor.


our gov't wants no cash, no gold, and no way for the public to pay for anyting outside of it's control.  debt, credit, ebt cards will be the way to do transactions in the future, so our gov't wants everyone to have a card of some kind.


just think,  if our gov't (fed) can create money electronicly,  what would stop them from 'fixing' all of our country's debt issues, 'electronicly'.


remember....our gov't wants no coins, no dollars, no gold/sliver, no nothing that can be transacted outside of it's control.


and.........remember.......they are doing us a favor.....what a great gov't we have!

Jun 19, 2014 1:37PM
ChexSystems once refused to 'ok' a check of mine at a local grocer. I had written a check there a couple weeks prior with no incident. The annoying part was that ChexSystems REFUSED to tell me why they didn't ok the check.

It's one thing to deny approval; but it's quite another to refuse to tell the customer why they are denying the check. I had no bounced checks; I rarely wrote them at all, pretty much just for groceries on occasion... I was rather annoyed because I had just done 2 hours of grocery shopping. Even the store acted annoyed at this, because I am a frequent customer and have never, ever had an issue writing a check there. As a matter of fact; prior to that my last bounced check was like 5 years prior. It was just silly.

Since; I never use a check for anything other than the occasional bill payment - and one thing I have learned - is to *always* grocery shop with ca****imply never gets declined. Never had an issue with a card; but I'm not going to start with 2 hours worth of groceries.
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