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How to Handle a Bank Error in Your Favor

Written by Nickel - 9 Comments

How to Handle a Bank Error in Your FavorAs you’re likely aware, bank aren’t perfect. Sometimes they make mistakes. And sometimes those mistakes actually favor the customer. Over the past week I’ve been dealing with a fairly significant bank error in our favor – as they say in Monopoly – and thought I’d share the story.

The backstory

A week ago this past Wednesday, I made a transfer from Bank A to Bank B. For a variety of reasons, none of which are very interesting, I had to do this by phone. So… I called Bank B, gave them the Bank A routing and account numbers along with the amount, and went merrily on my way.

The next day (Thursday), I decided to do another transfer in the same amount, so I again called Bank B, talked them through what I wanted to do, and once again went merrily on my way.

On Friday night, I checked both accounts. Much to my surprise, there were three deposits into my account at Bank B. Uh oh. It looks like one of the transfers got duplicated. Concerned, I checked Bank A. Two withdrawals had hit – was another one lingering out there in the ether?

Of course, we were heading into Labor Day weekend, so I’d have to wait extra long to find out. Isn’t that how it always works out?

Untangling the mess

Concerned that we’d get hit with a third transfer out of Bank A, I called both banks. Bank B said that they were only showing two transfer requests, and couldn’t explain the third deposit. Regardless, they promised to cover any fees that we might incur.

Over at Bank A, they were only showing two withdrawal requests so far. They further stated that, since there wasn’t enough in our account to cover the third transfer, it would simply be refused. We’d get hit with an NSF fee but, given the circumstances, they’d go ahead and waive it.

As of this writing, our banking situation still hasn’t been resolved. The third deposit is showing at Bank A, but the third debit has yet to hit Bank B. In other words, we’re currently sitting on a bunch of extra money. Great new, right? Well…

Resolving bank errors

As it turns out, even if a mistake such as this is entirely the bank’s fault, you’re not allowed to keep the misdirected funds. And if you try to do so, you might wind up getting yourself arrested. Seriously.

Here are three examples: one, two, three

When your bank figures out their mistake – and they eventually will – you’ll have to give the money back. Either that, or they’ll take it. Perhaps without warning. Thus, your best defense is to simply notify them of the error and leave the funds in place until things get straightened out.

Have you ever dealt with a bank error such as this?

Published on September 10th, 2010
Modified on September 13th, 2010 - 9 Comments
Filed under: Banking

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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9 Responses to “How to Handle a Bank Error in Your Favor”

  1. 1
    Nick Says:

    I’m totally on board with getting to the bottom of ANY mistake (in your favor or otherwise). It always gets resolved – just a matter of time.

    I’ve dealt with this once, too, and called in the error. They didn’t really “thank” me, but it was much cleaner and easier to get it resolved this way.

  2. 2
    Cognoramus Says:

    Would it be unethical to stick the money into an interest-bearing account while you wait? Granted, it would probably get resolved too fast for you to make any serious interest, but it might buy a coffee at Starbucks or something.

  3. 3
    Nick Says:

    Hmmm…. not sure if it would be unethical, but one issue with that is if and when the bank figures it out they probably won’t write you a letter asking for the money back. They’ll probably just hit the account for the $$ and, if there isn’t enough there, start hitting you with overdraft and other fees.

  4. 4
    Jo Says:

    That’s pretty much a given that any bank will withdraw money from one’s account if it isn’t theirs, legally. I have had that happen and simply “sit on it” until the bank realizes their mistake. I make no attempt to try and claim what isn’t mine to begin with. It’s easier that way. Most of the time it isn’t in there long enough to earn interest.

  5. 5
    Sandra Says:

    I had that happen the other day i thought, only it wasn’t the banks mistake my insurance company credited my account because they need a full payment and not a partial payment, so anyway I spent it because it was mine.

  6. 6
    Dana Says:

    I have seen plenty of bank errors both in my favor and not. They (whom ever they are) have always corrected it with out a phone call or any warning what-so-ever. It is best to keep it in the account or at least enough float to cover it at all times. I have not always been able to get fees back if I was charged as a result.

  7. 7
    James Says:

    I once had a ~$2200 bank error in my favor.

    It’s been a long time so the details are hazy, but after several months of phone calls and trips to the local branch trying to convince them they made an error, I gave up.

    The funny thing is, unless you buy/invest specifically with that very money, over time it just disappears!

  8. 8
    Dan B Says:

    Oh please! You’d never get convicted for something like this. For you to go to jail the bank would have to show that you intended to defraud them when you took your initial actions in ordering the transfers. Of course i’m not a lawyer, so I encourage everyone to consult one regarding this question, & pay their inflated fees to get their “opinion” on this matter.

  9. 9
    Adrian Says:

    whell i put on my acc. 2.500 and i cheked the saving book i saw 25 and few zero�i wasn�t worried, few days later i realise that it was writen 25 000 , one zero more till now i didn�t chek again the account i left the situation like this thinking that the bank will solve the situation .the thing is that i need so much this money �i think to take them out and when they realise and whant it back �to pay it monthely back! any opinions ? (escuse my english)

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