Dear Dr. Don,
Help! I am getting a divorce, so I expect to be a single mom soon. After losing my home to foreclosure last year, I need to open a checking account. But I have a low credit score. Will my poor credit history pose an issue as I look to open a bank account? What kind of institution is most likely to accept me as a customer?
-- Stacey Start-Over
You have one report for your banking history that is quite different from your credit report. If you have a "clean" banking history, you'll have an easier time opening a bank account.
You can request a free copy of your banking consumer report once a year by visiting ConsumerDebit.com. Negative information on your banking history report remains for five years, less than for bankruptcy. You have the right to dispute incorrect information on your consumer report.
Not every financial institution uses a banking consumer report to decide whether they want you as a customer. If you don't have a clean report, you'll probably need to find a financial institution that doesn't rely on the report issued by ChexSystems. A credit union can be a good alternative. Some banks offer a "second chance" account for people with troubled banking histories.
Some financial institutions will check a credit report when you apply for a checking account. They want to know if you're a good candidate for borrowing and credit cards. You can ask the institution if it plans to check your credit history.
A less invasive request for information, known as a "soft pull," shouldn't negatively affect your credit score. The other option is called a "hard pull," which is documented as a credit inquiry. Such credit inquiries remain on your credit report for two years but should only influence your credit score during the first year.