Keeping your money in a bank instead of stuffing it under your mattress seems like a no-brainer, but there are nearly 10 million households in the U.S. that don’t have a checking or savings account. Millennials, in particular, are notably unconventional when it comes to how they manage their money.
From using prepaid debit cards to transferring money through apps like Venmo, 20-somethings are relying less and less on traditional banking. While some turn away from banks out of frustration at seemingly nonsensical policies, others are hindered by bad credit. Closing an account without paying off your overdraft or bouncing checks repeatedly can land you on ChexSystems, a credit reporting service that banks use to screen out potentially risky customers. Once your name hits the system, it can take five years to clear your record.
Second chance accounts are designed for people who have gotten into trouble with their previous bank and need help getting back on the right track. They offer the same benefits you’d get with a regular account but there are usually some additional guidelines you have to meet to stay in good standing with your bank. If you’re not sure whether you should open a second chance banking account, here’s four ways it can make your financial life easier.
It’s more convenient
When you don’t have a bank account, it changes the way you do basic things like paying bills and cashing checks. For example, instead of being able to have your bills drafted from your account automatically, you have to take the time to pay each one separately. If you’re using a prepaid card, you may be able to call and do that over the phone but if not, then you’re dealing with the added hassle of buying and mailing money orders.
If you prefer to go the prepaid route, you may be able to have your paycheck automatically deposited to the card but what happens if someone writes you a personal check? You could try taking it to the bank the check was issued from, but without an account, they will most likely charge you a fee. There are plenty of check cashing services out there but you’ll also have to cough up a fee to use them.
A second chance account eliminates these hassles since you’re able to take advantage of things like online bill pay, direct deposit, mobile banking and check writing. Cashing checks is just a matter of visiting your local branch and you get the added security of knowing your account is protected in the event that someone hacks your information. If someone steals your prepaid card number or the card itself, it’s virtually impossible to get the money back.
You’ll pay fewer fees
Going bankless can hurt your wallet if you’re constantly shelling out money for fees. Check cashing services, for instance, typically charge a fee ranging from 2 to 5 percent of the check, which can add up to a lot of money if you use them frequently. If you’re cashing a $500 payroll check every week, it could cost you anywhere from $10 to $25 a pop. Over the course of a year, it can add up to more than $1,000 that you’re throwing away on fees.
While second-chance accounts generally aren’t fee-free, they’re usually a less expensive option, especially for cash-strapped millennials. The monthly service fees can range from $5 to $20 but if you compare that to what you’re paying to cash checks, purchase money orders or pay your bills over the phone, the odds are good that you’re going to be coming out ahead.
It’s easier to save and track spending
Saving money is tough enough these days but it can be even harder when you’re not able to track your progress. If you’re just dumping money in a jar it’s harder to get a tangible sense of where you stand financially, versus taking a glance at your account balance. Many banks that offer second chance checking accounts also offer savings options to help you grow your money faster. This can be a great motivator and you’re earning some interest on your cash to boot.
Being unbanked also makes it tougher to keep up with what you’re spending on a day to day basis. You can write it all down but it’s inevitable that something will slip through the cracks, throwing your budget out of whack in the process. When you open a second chance banking account, you can solve that problem by linking it to a Mint.com account. Mint tracks all your spending for you and you can even use the app to set goals, set up bill reminders and monitor your net worth.
It can improve your credit
Millennials face a unique challenge when it comes to their credit. More of them are dodging credit cards to avoid getting into debt, but at the same time, they’re not helping their credit scores. Ending up on ChexSystems only makes things worse, especially for 20-somethings who might be trying to refinance their student loan debt but can’t find a bank that’s willing to play ball.
Getting a second chance account can help to undo some of the damage. Depending on the bank, you may be able to get your account converted to a regular checking or savings after it’s been open for a set period of time. At that point, you should be in better position to apply for loans or get a credit card, both of which can help to boost your credit score as long as you’re responsible about repaying them.
The bottom line
Second chance bank accounts can be a win-win for someone who can’t get a traditional account but is tired of paying hefty fees or jumping through hoops to pay their bills. They can be especially helpful for 20-somethings who may have gotten burned by their bank in the past or just need a fresh start.