The short answer is YES under the right of setoff if you owe that same bank or credit union on a credit card or loan.
When you have a savings or checking account with a bank or credit union it is very common to apply for credit cards or loans with that same financial institution or credit union. Most of us have built trust in our credit union or bank and feel comfortable in applying for loans or credit cards through them.
When you default on your credit card or loan with your financial institution they may utilize their right of setoff to obtain payment for your credit card or loan. This right is based on the concept that they owe you (money held in your bank accounts) and you owe them money (on a credit card or loan) and therefore they can deduct the amounts you owe from your bank account. The right of setoff is only available when mutual obligations exist between the bank and the depositor/borrower. This means the same bank or credit union that holds your money is the same bank or credit union that you owe money to on a credit card or loan.
In our experience, generally Credit Unions and Wells Fargo are notorious for using the right of setoff with their customers. Other banks have not been as aggressive in using the right of setoff with their customers.
What Should I Do If I Owe a Debt To My Bank or Credit Union?
It is recommended that you avoid using any bank or credit union where you owe them money. Find a bank or credit union that you do not owe a debt to.
When a bank or credit union decides to pull money from your bank account to cover a loan or credit card in default they will not notify you ahead of time. Generally clients will find out about this simply by looking at their bank balance or statement and seeing a withdraw amount taken by the bank or credit union. It is always best to take precautionary measures to ensure that you are protected from the money in your bank account being taken by your financial institution.
For more detailed information on the right of set off you can read our blog on:
Can The Bank Take Money From My Account to Pay What I Owe Them?
Can Bankruptcy Protect Me From This?
Yes and no. The credit union or bank can still take amounts that were in your bank account prior to filing for bankruptcy for any prepetition debt, but they cannot take money that you deposit after filing for bankruptcy. Any amounts that you deposit after filing for bankruptcy in your bank account are off limits for debt you owed them prior to filing.
Filing for Bankruptcy Can Also Protect Future Tax Refunds
The IRS also uses the right of setoff to take your tax refund for old tax debt. Bankruptcy may allow you to keep future tax refunds if your tax debt is dischargeable. We have previously written on the dischargeability of tax debt on our website at: https://www.socaladvocates.com/taxes-and-bankruptcy/
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