I heard more feedback from yesterday’s last bullet point about the dangers of opening a checking account with American Express than I’ve heard on any single topic in the past, which I guess means Larry won the churning prize? The tone of the feedback was all over the place like a Nine-Inch-Nails jazz fusion concert put on by a collaboration between N’Sync and Taylor Swift, so I think more discussion is in order.
The General Rule
Holding deposit accounts at banks with valuable credit cards typically can’t do you much good, but it can do you plenty of harm. This is especially true at Chase, Citibank, and Capital One, and probably other banks whose first letter starts with a “C” (if correlation equals causation). At these banks, there are dozens of reports of shutdowns on the credit card side of the business after investigations started on the banking side.
Why might banking get involved and look at your account?
- Lots of transactions
- A SAR form filled out by an employee
- An insufficient or returned funds transaction
- Too many phone calls
- A deposit from a new source
- Too many ACH pulls from the account
But, there are less obvious reasons that you can get eyes on your gaming, even if you haven’t made a single transaction in your bank account. These are the insidious ones:
- Escheat and unclaimed property laws
- Routine Know Your Customer checks
- A fraud alert from a credit card charge that triggers an internal system
- A general audit
- The results of a periodic soft-credit pull (Chase is especially notorious for this)
- In response to an inquiry from the IRS, regulator, or law enforcement
Deposit fraud investigators are typically quicker to shutdown and more easily triggered than their credit card counterparts. I believe this is principally because deposit accounts are by-in-large a necessary cost-center at a bank, while credit accounts are largely a profit-center. Of course regulation and federal funds requirements also play into this too.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are times when deposit accounts can still make sense. For example, Bank of America deposit accounts help a churner because:
- Holding $5,000 in a checking account will enable you to power-churn their cards
- Holding $100,000 in a business account will earn you an extra 75% in rewards on some cards
U.S. Bank deposit accounts can also make sense because:
- Holding $1,500 in a checking account will boost your approval odds tremendously
PenFed deposit accounts can make sense because:
- Having an Access America checking account waives the annual fee on all of your PenFed Pathfinder Rewards cards
And, you may find that to get a great credit card at a local credit union you may first have to hold a deposit account. In that case though, a shutdown is rarely catastrophic.
In case you’d like an ELI5: Holding deposit accounts at popular churning banks is probably bad, but sometimes it can help you churn enough to make the risk worth the rewards.
Pictured: What the sound of N’Sync and Taylor Swift riffing on jazz inspired by NiN looks like.