Financial and Safety Tips for Banks

How It Works

A bank or credit union can offer you a checking or savings account, among other products. A checking account is an account at financial institution such as a bank or credit union that allows you to withdraw and deposit money. Most checking accounts will come with a debit card, which will allow you to withdraw money from ATMs and spend money from your checking account in stores.

Why It's Important

A checking account can serve as a safety funding, allowing you to discretely save money. Checking accounts give you the ability to use checks, get money from ATMs using a debit card, and get money from bank tellers. Additionally, checking accounts make it possible for you to pay off credit cards.

Safety Considerations
  • If you file joint taxes with your harm doer, opening interest bearing accounts could be a potential risk. See "Risk Mitigation" for possible solutions.
  • All checking accounts require a physical address to apply. This could be a potential risk if they mail letters to your home, which you share with your harm doer. See "Risk Mitigation" for possible solutions.
  • Most banks will let you create a safe word that needs to be said before any personal information is shared on the phone or in person.
  • If someone knows all of the following information about you, they may be able to access your Consumer Bank Report: Full Name. Date of Birth, Social Security Number, Current Address. This report will include the names of banks and credit unions that you have had a negative banking history within the past five years.
  • Many credit unions will gift the money needed to become a member of the credit union (this amount ranges from $5 to $30) to decrease the barrier to joining. Additionally, some credit unions require you to be part of an association in order to become a member (as opposed to residing in a specific geography) and the credit union will pay for your membership to join a qualifying association.  These gifts count towards the 1099 tax form, which requires you to report them on your taxes. If you file joint taxes with your harm-doer, this can be a safety concern.
Financial Considerations
  • When possible, try to select a checking account where you will not be required to pay monthly maintenance fees.
  • When choosing a checking account, pay attention to account fees like "overdrafts," which is when you make a purchase for more than you have in your checking account. Not paying fees can impact your ability to open a new account at a bank or credit union for seven years. Additionally, it can result in your bank or credit union appearing on you Consumer Bank report.
  • Checking accounts for the most part will not affect your credit score. An exception would be if you overdraft your account, and the bank contacts a collection agency to collect the amount you owe.
Risk Mitigation

If you earn more than $10 in interest from your interest bearing account, you will be receiving a 1099-INT tax form. This can be a concern for people filing joint taxes with an abuser. A way to mitigate this risk is to keep your account(s) balance lower than the threshold it takes to incur interest (ask your financial institution about this) or to choose an interest free account.

If you feel that your residential address has been compromised, there are a few options.  Most banks have options to "go paperless" which means no mail will be sent to your address. Some banks will also let you keep a mailing address on file, separate from your physical address. In addition, you can learn about the Address Confidentiality Program here.