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Sep 2011

Before bankruptcy: three reasons to change banks

Posted by / in Virginia Bankruptcy / 72 comments

Before bankruptcy:  three reasons to change banks

When people talk to me about filing bankruptcy, I often tell them to change banks.

Here are three reasons.

1.   If you have money in a bank you owe money to: change banks.  A bank is allowed to pay themselves for money you owe them.  If you have money in Bank of America and you have a mortgage, or equity loan or signature line with them, they can grab your money to pay themselves.

Credit Unions are especially quick.  And credit unions can also offset credit cards, too.  (Banks are not allowed to do that.)  As a precaution, get your money out of any bank you owe money to.

Virginia Bankruptcy Lawyer Robert Weed

“Before you file bankruptcy, here are three reasons to change banks.”

2.  If you have money in Wells Fargo: change banks.  Even if you don’t owe them any money, Wells Fargo will freeze your bank account when they hear about the bankruptcy.  They think bankruptcy law requires them to do this–even though no other bank thinks that way.  (Henry Sommer, former president of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, jokes that maybe they just do it to collect bounced check fees.)

Whatever the reason, close your account at  Wells Fargo.

3.  If you are in danger of garnishment: change banks.

Do you have a warrant-in-debt or other court paper?  Once a creditor has a judgment against you, they can garnish your bank account.

How do they know where you bank?  They will look at the last check you wrote them–maybe a year or more ago–and they will hit that bank.  So, make sure when they do that, you don’t have any account there any more.  (Just getting a different account number at the same bank doesn’t work. )

Where should you go?  I like to tell people the universe is full of banks.  As long as you don’t owe them any money, and it’s not Wells Fargo, and you haven’t banked there before, any bank will do.

(Some people are afraid as soon as they open a new bank account, everyone will know.  That’s not true.  This is still America.  Your private business is still, mostly, private.)

Some people’s credit is so bad they have trouble opening a new account.  If you are worried about that, try TD Bank.  They will open an account for people who can’t get one anywhere else.  (People also tell me they really like TD.)

Another place is Woodforest Bank.   You can find them in the big Walmarts in Manassas and Fredericksburg.

Here’s one thing you should not do.

Don’t put your money in someone else’s bank account.  That is not allowed.  If you put your money in someone else’s name, you can lose your bankruptcy discharge.  When your bankruptcy is over, the court would tell everybody you owe money to, that it’s open season on you again.   Don’t do that.

While we’re talking about bank accounts, close your orphan accounts.  You know, those accounts that still have $5.00 in them from when you used to bank there, where you used to live.  Close them.

When we go to the bankruptcy court together, you have to turn in account statements for all your accounts.  You don’t want to be fumbling around with six accounts when you only really need one.  You also don’t want to get sent home from court to look for that last account statement on the account you never use.  Close them!  You’ll save yourself (and me and the bankruptcy court) a lot of headaches if you take my advice on that.

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Robert Weed has helped fifteen thousand people file bankruptcy in Northern Virginia. Robert Weed is a frequent panelist and speaker at the meetings of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. He is one of Northern Virginia’s most experienced personal bankruptcy lawyers. As an expert on changing consumer bankruptcy laws, Robert Weed has been interviewed on local and national TV and quoted in newspapers across the country.

  • Rose B.

    December 18, 2011, pm31 3:50 PM

    Is there a bank similar to TD bank, located in the Kansas City, MO area? I don’t live that close to the coast, unfortunately.

    • Robert Weed

      December 18, 2011, pm31 4:03 PM

      Woodforest Bank, found in some of the largest Walmarts, will also open an account for most people whose credit is too bad to get an account at most banks.

  • nathaly

    December 31, 2011, am31 1:43 AM

    If I owe wells fargo,can I open a bank account like at Union Bank?

    • Robert Weed

      December 31, 2011, am31 9:51 AM

      I don’t know who Union Bank is, but, sure, why not?

  • yvonne

    June 27, 2012, pm30 10:31 PM

    I got a warrant in debt and my question is can my bank account be froze when i am on social security and it is direct deposited in my account. I bank at Wells Fargo.

    • Robert Weed

      June 28, 2012, am30 6:50 AM


      Obama put in a regulation that the bank has to LOOK at your account and see what’s social security. And the social security that’s direct deposited can’t be frozen for the garnishment.

      Are you wondering if you should just IGNORE the warrant in debt? I’d sure talk to a lawyer before you decide that’s what you want to do. If social security is basically all you have, we’d be glad to talk with you for a real, personal consultation at no charge…

  • naomi

    December 4, 2012, am31 11:26 AM

    I have a question ..we have navy federal account and two car loans on there and a unsecured card and secured card card says secured but we didn’t put money down to get it…well we simply can’t pay cards now…times are tough.. we will pay car loans though…we recently switched checking and savings to new bank…will navy find us and take money when we transfer funds to pay cars..or will they take our cars since we aren’t paying them for our cards? Can they put a lien on our house or anything like that? Thank you!

    • Robert Weed

      December 4, 2012, am31 11:36 AM


      Navy Fed can and will apply the car payments to the credit cards when you get a month or so behind–and then threaten or actually repo the cars.

      But, no, they cannot go and get money from your new bank without first taking you to court and getting a judgment–in most places that takes somewhere between six months and a year.

  • km

    January 25, 2013, am31 8:56 AM

    I have banking accounts with bank of America and am filing chapter 13 today. One of my credit cards is the them. Can they freeze my account? I am not sure if I have time yo change accounts plus direct deposits. I would rather stay with them due to all of my direct deposits but definitely don’t won’t my account frozen. Thanks!

    • Robert Weed

      January 25, 2013, am31 9:15 AM


      You should be ok. Credit unions are allowed to grab and empty your checking account to pay themselves for a credit card, but banks can’t.

  • Scott

    March 26, 2013, pm31 10:18 PM

    I have my checking and also an unsecured overdraft line of credit with Wells Fargo. I have a separate signed line of credit agreement with them that stipulates interest rate, credit amount, etc and it also says I pledged no security on the line of credit. I can’t afford to make the payments on the line of credit any longer. Can they offset my checking account to pay the line of credit?

    • Robert Weed

      March 27, 2013, am31 6:21 AM


      You are saying the overdraft line of credit is unsecured–I thought they were always secured. Get your money out of Wells Fargo–then you don’t have to worry about whether you understand the fine print.

  • Grant

    April 3, 2013, am30 9:55 AM

    Thank you for the informative article!

    I paid off my vehicle about 4 years ago, but my credit union is refusing to release the lien while I have unpaid funds on a credit card with them. I just want to sell my old car. Can they legally hold the lien on my vehicle if I have another line of credit open?

    • Robert Weed

      April 3, 2013, am30 11:08 AM


      Yeah, they can. It’s illegal for banks but credit unions can and do. Maybe I should do a blog on that topic. I tell all my clients who have car loans with credit unions when we first meet.

  • Jeff

    August 21, 2013, am31 5:03 AM

    I have a Wells Fargo account that just had a lien put on it for back child support. They withdrew legal fees for the process and put me in the red, big time. Can I add the money to the account to bring it up to $0 and then close the account?

    Thank You!

    • Robert Weed

      August 21, 2013, am31 10:34 AM


      Yes, makes sense to me.

  • ME

    October 7, 2013, am31 12:22 AM

    Dear Robert Weed:
    I live in Florida. I’m considering filling bankruptcy ( chap. 7) due to a $40,000 (4 days) emergency medical bill. I had a credit union account and just close it. Is it safe or smart to stay with out a bank account during bankruptcy?

    I’m also married and have a mortgage together and worry my partner’s will be hurt in any way. What can I do? we both have excellent credit!! and separate account and credit.

    • Robert Weed

      October 7, 2013, am31 10:22 AM


      You need to talk to a lawyer in Florida. One area where states have different laws is whether your spouse is responsible for your medical bills. That’s where you need to start.

      It is probably neither safe nor smart to go without a bank account–it could easily be bankruptcy fraud. Different judges see that differently, but it’s dangerous almost anywhere. Could get your bankruptcy disapproved–and there’s some very slight chance of worse.

      • ME

        October 8, 2013, am31 1:06 AM

        Dear Robert Weed:
        Thank you very much. I wish you could be m lawyer.

        • ME

          October 8, 2013, am31 1:50 AM

          Dear Robert Weed:
          I worry about them garnishment my wages. I have already started the process by closing my exciting account. but when I open a new account will the judge look at my “ferly new bank account as bankruptcy fraud or disapproved? because is only few months old.
          if so…how long you suggest I should wait in filing for chapter 7? after opening a new acct.

  • Robert Weed

    October 9, 2013, pm31 7:29 PM

    No bank account causes much more suspicion than new bank account.

  • Steve

    December 1, 2013, pm31 8:46 PM

    Dear Robert,
    i live in NY state. I have about $40k in credit card debt and I can pay any longer bc together we make $45k a year. I am married and the debt is on me and my wife. I have an acccount with around $22,000 saved for rainy day. I dont owe any $ to HSBC.

    If we file bankruptcy ch7 can I keep our life savings?

    • Robert Weed

      December 2, 2013, am31 10:54 AM


      You need to talk to a lawyer in New York. I’m sorry but I don’t know anything about what New York let’s you keep.

  • Jake

    December 26, 2013, am31 5:02 AM

    Any recommendation for a checking/savings account in Seattle, WA?

    Are big banks–aside from Wells Fargo– ok? I am planning on filing for Ch. 7 in 6-months time. My income is taking a huge plunge and I won’t be able to meet the needs of my budget and make debt repayments. I want to change my bank accounts to a place where I owe no money but don’t want to worry about any repercussions such as a freeze on my accounts.

    Thanks for your help. Glad I found your page

    • Robert Weed

      December 26, 2013, am31 11:05 AM


      Sorry I don’t know anything about West Coast banks.

  • Charles ortisi

    February 7, 2014, am28 2:35 AM

    I just filed chapter 7 and live in maryland. Wells Fargo froze 20,000 dollars of mine . I don’t owe them any money can I get my money back like get it unfrozen ?

    • Robert Weed

      February 7, 2014, pm28 4:21 PM


      Oops! Your lawyer might not have known Wells Fargo would freeze your account, but did he know you had $20,000. I went to law school in Maryland in the 1970’s and haven’t been back recently. But I’m not sure Maryland law lets you file Chapter 7 and keep $20,000. The bankruptcy trustee may want it. (The reason Wells gives for freezing accounts is exactly what you have done. Filed Chapter 7 with money in the bank that your bankruptcy trustee will want to take from you.)

  • Joey

    February 12, 2014, pm28 10:11 PM

    I pay all my bills every month but because of my pending divorce i have two cars, two credit cards and a consolidation loan in my name. I have a 700 or so credit score but i am barely making it after payday. Would bankruptcy help?
    I have a small child that I dont get any support for. And the bills are becoming a vicious circle.

    • Robert Weed

      February 13, 2014, am28 11:26 AM


      You absolutely need to go talk to a bankruptcy lawyer. You are smart to know that your 700 credit score is not the most important thing in your life. Being able to borrow more money because your score is 700 is not really much good if then you can’t pay it. (Depending on the age of your car, you might want to use your 700 score to get a newer car before your score tanks. Talk to your lawyer about that. Your lawyer may not be able to bring that up, but you can. I talk about that, here. https://robertweed.com/2011/01/22/before-bankruptcy-dont-pay-off-the-car/)

  • Steve

    February 28, 2014, am28 1:30 AM

    I filed for ch 7 bankruptcy and just received my discharge notification. My Bank of America checking account was not frozen and I can still use it. I was wondering if Bank of America can take future money that I put into my checking account since I listed them as a creditor in my case? I don’t want to start saving money and find out in a year or two that they can somehow offset the account for the credit card debt I had before filing. Will I be alright to just keep that account and use it or should I try and find a new bank for my checking/savings? From what I understand, they cannot use any post-petition funds to cover any pre-petition debts. Just making sure. Thanks

    • Robert Weed

      March 1, 2014, pm31 9:46 PM


      Right. Why doesn’t your lawyer answer your questions?

      • Steve

        March 3, 2014, am31 3:18 AM

        Thanks Robert. I just payed a company to prepare my bankruptcy paperwork and file it because it was a pretty simple case. I had to do a lot of the research on my own. I was advised by someone who had a bankruptcy to change banks even after the bankruptcy but it’s hard to open a new account with bad credit. I just hope that I will be alright keeping my same checking account open since I owed money to them before the bankruptcy.

        • Sarom

          June 17, 2014, pm30 11:21 PM

          Steve: your comment is very helpful. I currently bank with Bank of America, I have my dd and a credit card through them. I hope they done freeze my account.

          • Robert Weed

            June 18, 2014, am30 2:01 AM


            A Credit Union can reach into your account and pay themselves back for a credit card, but a BANK can’t.

            So you can file bankrutpcy on a credit card with Bank of America and still safely bank with them.

  • Joshua

    May 28, 2014, pm31 8:06 PM

    My partner and I have the same bank account. I am needing to file for bankruptcy, is having one account with both of our incomes going in going to effect my bankruptcy or his money?

    • Robert Weed

      May 28, 2014, pm31 8:20 PM


      Around here it would usually not be a problem. Depending on how much is there. If I were your lawyer I’d have everything in front of me before I told you either to keep doing that, or to change it. There might be some weird reason one way or the other.

  • Sarom

    June 17, 2014, pm30 11:18 PM

    We are filing jointly and my spouse currently banks at Navy Fed CU where he has his direct deposit and credit card payment. Should he take his funds out or chg bank to avoid a freezes and how long it is safe to say we withdraw the funds and go file the bankruptcy.i don’t want the court to review this and question the immediate action of changing accounts and the proceeding with filing.

    • Robert Weed

      June 18, 2014, am30 2:04 AM


      Navy Federal is a credit union; they are ALLOWED to empty out your spouse’s bank account if he is late on a credit card payment to them. And they are quick to do it.

      None of the judges around here have any problem with that–I don’t know where you are. They’d have a problem if you move your money into a bank in somebody else’s name–a big problem. But moving your money to your account in a different bank–that’s not been a problem around here.

  • rebecca oconnell

    June 27, 2014, pm30 2:12 PM

    we had a line of credit with our mortgage co. when we filed a chapt. 13 we have always made the payments and still are thru the bankruptcy my question is will the bank still let us borrow on it ?

    • Robert Weed

      June 27, 2014, pm30 5:05 PM


      Up to them, but I doubt it. Maybe in six months or a year you can apply again. If you have a long history with them, they might reopen it at that point.

  • Shari

    July 2, 2014, pm31 8:24 PM

    Will be filing chapter 13 in the state of VA in 90 days (after time has passed of not using credit cards). If we have a Wells Fargo checking acct (for the past 9 years) with $15K in it and you say to remove all money from Wells Fargo, doesnt that look suspicious in court three months later? We do have 4 different accounts with Wells Fargo that we owe money to (mortgage, line of credit, car loan).

    • Robert Weed

      July 3, 2014, pm31 2:01 PM


      Ask your lawyer what they think. I don’t want to second guess your own lawyer.

  • steve nunez

    July 19, 2014, pm31 8:26 PM

    I just file for bankruptcy and I have my court day August 12, 2014.. I just found out that I had a saving account with san diego credit union .. its been 3-4 years that I dont use it at all and I only have 50 cents in the account well this affect my case or should I not worry about it since its only .50cent plus I dont owe any money to this bank ? ..

    • Robert Weed

      July 19, 2014, pm31 8:38 PM


      First, tell your lawyer. Second, bring a bank statement showing the fifty cents to your “meeting of creditors” hearing date.

      I can’t imagine there being a problem over missing a $.50 account–especially if you fess up as soon as you remember it.

  • steve nunez

    July 20, 2014, am31 1:17 AM

    I have one more question , now that I filed and i have my court date next month I was wondering if I can close my checking account or should I wait after my court day to close my checking account?

    • Robert Weed

      July 20, 2014, pm31 6:34 PM


      I sure think you should talk to your lawyer about what you should do.

  • karen

    August 18, 2014, am31 10:58 AM

    How soon can you file for bankruptcy when you know you will have problems paying your bills. I just lost 700 hundred dollars a month in income when someone walked away from a lease and I wont be able to make payments on my bills and a home with a mortgage that I don’t live in. Thank you Should I also change banks I have Social Security and a small pension from late husbands work?

    • Robert Weed

      August 18, 2014, am31 11:02 AM


      You should go see a bankruptcy lawyer right now–you are smart to look the situation in the eye early when you have plenty of time to select the easiest way to handle it.

  • ronald

    September 6, 2014, pm30 4:40 PM

    I file chapter 7 bankrupcy . I had accounts at to different credit unions I moved my deposits to the one I just have a car loan with and I plan to keep paying that will they freeze my account? I live in Virginia. I have no other loans with them but the one car loan.

    • Robert Weed

      September 7, 2014, pm30 12:29 PM


      To be safer I’d have a account some place where you don’t owe any money and have your paycheck going there. Even if your credit union freezes your account for only two weeks until they see you are paying your car payment, would that be a problem for you?

  • Bank account question

    September 16, 2014, am30 4:51 AM

    I have a Wells Fargo checking account that I listed as an exempt on my chapter 7 bankruptcy. I also listed a navy federal checking and savings account but navy federal closed the checking account since I listed them as a creditor on an unsecured credit card. Couple questions, can I close the Wells Fargo checking account and the navy federal savings account before my discharge has been final? Can I open a new checking account at a new bank before my discharge is final or will this affect my discharge or disapproved my discharge? If it’s ok to open a new account it won’t be listed on my bankruptcy exempt form, is this ok?

    • Robert Weed

      September 16, 2014, am30 10:30 AM


      Yep, no surprise that Navy Fed took your money and fired you as a customer. The good news is Wells Fargo did NOT freeze you. (They don’t freeze small accounts–I don’t know where their cut off is.) Sure you can open a new account somewhere if you want. But if your Wells account is working there’s no need to. What you do with your bank accounts after your case is filed is pretty much just your business.

  • TJ

    September 16, 2014, pm30 5:41 PM

    My wife has $50,000 in her savings account (her name only)

    If we use that money to buy a house now, and put the house in my name only. 2-3 years down the road IF my wife has to file bankruptcy, is the judge going to say buying a house in my name is a fraud transfer of assets??? We’re a family of 3 right now living in a tiny 965 sq ft condo. Mortgage rates are still low and housing prices still down, so of course we’re thinking of using that $50,000 for a house. We live in Chicago. In 2-3 years we might be a family of 4.

    • Robert Weed

      September 16, 2014, pm30 5:51 PM


      Good question. Way too good of a question to ask or answer on the internet. The short answer is that would probably be a problem.

      If you were here and we had some planning time–sounds like you have some planning time–I could suggest ways to work around that problem.

      You need to talk to a lawyer there in Chicago. NOW, while you have time to safely re-arrange your situation.

  • joe

    September 22, 2014, pm30 6:03 PM

    I was wonddring i live in ohio and i just lost a lawsuit against me from a lumber company cause i didnt pay them it against me and my business butuinder a sole prop..i was wondering how long after yhey wn a judgement against me can they freeze my account..amd if i switch banks now can they find out ihave nothing in my name cause i dont own anything but o dont want to lose yhe little money i have left help

    • Robert Weed

      September 22, 2014, pm30 9:33 PM


      You need to talk to a bankruptcy lawyer there in Ohio.

  • Robert Weed

    October 11, 2014, pm31 6:33 PM

    Here in October 2014, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau announced they are looking at the problems consumers with bad credit have in getting bank accounts. http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/director-richard-cordray-remarks-at-the-cfpb-forum-on-checking-account-access/.

    The CFPB has a good track record of doing what they promise to do, so I expect we’ll hear more about this.

    For now, our recommendation is the same. TD Bank and Woodforest Bank will open accounts for people other banks turn down.

  • Anthony

    January 17, 2015, pm31 10:42 PM

    If someone files for chapter 7 bankruptcy, but they don’t have a checking or savings account, will that be okay? But the money made from work is deposited into another person’s account. Will that be a problem?

    • Robert Weed

      January 18, 2015, am31 11:33 AM


      Not having a bank account is ok–having your money go into another persons bank account raises questions. If you were sitting in my office asking me, I’d tell you to go open a bank account in your own name. You don’t want to go into bankruptcy looking like you are hiding something.

  • Robert Weed

    June 28, 2015, pm30 4:33 PM

    Here in June 2015, a judge in New York City hit Wells Fargo for their bankruptcy freeze policy. http://nypost.com/2015/06/27/wells-fargos-inconsistent-bankruptcy-program-troubles-bank-in-court/. But they are appealing. For whatever reason, Wells is really locked in on this policy.

  • Melinda

    November 11, 2015, pm30 3:33 PM

    We filed chapter 13 almost 2 years ago. I switched credit unions since we had a car loan and 2 credit cards with them. Now my new credit union is merging with my old one. Do I need to switch again?

    • Robert Weed

      November 12, 2015, pm30 2:37 PM


      No, I can’t think of any reason. Everybody’s rights are set at the time the BK is filed; and then again when the C13 plan is confirmed.

  • Ginger

    February 6, 2016, am29 7:24 AM

    Wells Fargo froze my accts because of a judgment for my citibank credit card. I plan to file for Chapter 7 but I also have a wells fargo credit card. will they unfreeze my accounts then freeze it back to pay themselves for my credit card, thus leaving me with none?

    • Robert Weed

      February 6, 2016, am29 11:52 AM


      I think you should be ok. A credit union can reach into your account with them and freeze it to collect on a credit card–but a bank can’t.

  • Rene

    September 19, 2016, pm30 5:44 PM

    Hi, I live in Illinois, I’m planning to file bankruptcy and I have a credit card with Chase Bank which is the same bank that I keep my checking and savings, do I need to change banks?

    • Robert Weed

      September 20, 2016, am30 10:44 AM


      A credit union can reach in and pay itself back for a credit card, but a bank can’t. Chase is a bank. They will likely never notice that you bank with them and wiped tu a credit card with them.

      • Rene

        September 20, 2016, pm30 7:16 PM

        So with this, then they won’t even freeze my account? And by the way thanks very much for all the information that you provide to all of us…

        • Robert Weed

          September 20, 2016, pm30 7:18 PM

          Glad I can help

  • Tony S.

    December 19, 2016, am31 9:49 AM

    Filing a chapter 13 within the next week or so. I have a personal loan with the credit union I use in MD for around 3,700. Currently have over 14k in my savings. Can my credit union freeze my entire account or will they just seize the amount still owed on the loan?

    • Robert Weed

      December 19, 2016, am31 9:51 AM


      Why are you leaving the $14k in the credit union? Move it to a bank you don’t owe money to, and then you don’t have to predict what they will do.

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