It’s hard to find banks that don’t use ChexSystems. Here’s what to do instead.

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In a Nutshell

It’s almost impossible to know whether a bank uses ChexSystems. So if you’ve had trouble opening an account in the past and are looking for options, you could try finding a bank that makes it easier to apply for checking accounts. Also, some banks and credit unions offer “second chance” or prepaid accounts for those who don’t qualify for regular checking.
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ChexSystems reports allow banks and credit unions to see information about past banking mistakes, like overdrafts or unpaid fees. But not all financial institutions pull checking-account reports like those from ChexSystems.

If you’ve tried opening a checking account and your application was denied, it’s possible that a negative checking-account report was involved. Financial institutions often pull checking-account reports from companies like ChexSystems to get information about your history with checking accounts, including instances of account misuse like overdrafts, check fraud and unpaid balances.

If your ChexSystems report, or other checking-account report, has prevented you from opening a checking account, you still have options. You can apply for a checking account at a bank that doesn’t use ChexSystems or another similar report, or apply for a different kind of account altogether. Unfortunately, banks generally don’t advertise whether they use ChexSystems, so we’ve provided you with a list of financial institutions that offer checking accounts for first-timers, along with some second-chance bank accounts.

Financial institutions that can make it easier to get a checking account

BBVA Compass

BBVA Compass offers multiple checking account options. BBVA asks customers interested in banking options to first apply for its standard checking account. If you’re denied for this account, BBVA offers you the opportunity to apply for a starter account called Easy Checking.

This starter account comes with many typical checking-account benefits, including a debit card, direct deposit, no ATM fees when using BBVA Compass ATMs, and online and mobile banking. But you’ll be required to deposit $25 in order to open the account. You’ll also have to pay a monthly service charge of $13.95. After 12 months, you can request an upgrade to a different account — with no service charge — if your original account is still active and has a positive balance.

Note that only the following states have physical branches: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Texas. If you’re not in one of those states, you’ll have to do everything over the phone or online.

Navy Federal Credit Union

With more than 8 million members, Navy Federal Credit Union is the largest credit union in the world. NFCU offers five unique checking accounts, including Free EveryDay Checking (a basic checking account without a monthly service fee) and e-Checking (for easy online service). Each of the five options requires no minimum opening deposit or an ongoing minimum balance, and they all come with free checks.

Because NFCU is a credit union, you must be a member of a certain group to join. Here are some of those who may be eligible to open an account at NFCU.

  • Active-duty service members, including Coast Guard
  • Army and Air National Guard personnel
  • Department of Defense employees, contractors or active-duty personnel
  • Veterans
  • Department of Defense civilian personnel or contractors
  • Family members of anyone listed above 

SunTrust Bank

SunTrust Bank’s Essential Checking Account has features geared toward first-time account users, including a starter pack of personal checks. A $100 minimum deposit is required to open the account, and it has a monthly service fee of $7. You can get the monthly fee waived if you keep an average daily balance of $500 or more, if you’re a student (including high school students), or for a variety of other reasons.

You can open an account online, and mobile banking is included with the account. Take note, though, that SunTrust only has branches in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Other options

Even if a bank uses ChexSystems reports, they may have banking options for people with negative checking history, too. Here are some alternatives to consider.

Second-chance checking

A variety of financial institutions offers second-chance checking accounts. These accounts may not have all the amenities of regular checking accounts, and they may come with higher fees than normal.

But second-chance accounts can be helpful banking tools, giving you the opportunity to build a positive banking history so that you can eventually open a standard checking account.

Here are some second-chance checking accounts to consider.

  • Wells Fargo Opportunity Checking
  • U.S. Bank Safe Debit Account
  • United Bank Gateway Checking
  • BancorpSouth Second Chance Checking

Prepaid debit cards

If you’re unable to open a bank account but need a way to make electronic payments, consider getting a prepaid debit card. Your credit won’t be checked when you apply for a prepaid debit card, and you can use the account to make payments (and some allow for ATM withdrawals, too) using money you’ve already loaded onto your card.

But there are some downsides to using prepaid debit cards. Fees, which can vary from one card to the next, tend to add up quickly. And information about your card use won’t be reported to the credit-reporting agencies, so using a prepaid debit card won’t help you build credit.

If you’re looking for a similar type of financial product that can help you build credit, consider a secured credit card instead.

Bottom line

If you applied for a checking account and were denied, consider reviewing your ChexSystems report to see why. You can pull your report for free if it was used to deny you a checking account. Plus, ChexSystems, like other consumer-reporting bureaus, is required to provide you with one free copy of your checking-account report every 12 months, at your request.

Once you know what negative marks are on your checking-account report, you can work toward improving your banking history by making responsible use of your accounts.

About the author: Sarah C. Brady is a San Francisco–based financial consultant, workshop facilitator and writer. In addition to writing for Credit Karma, Sarah writes for Experian, LendingTree, Magnify Money, MSN News and more. In her … Read more.