How to Handle a Bank Error

by Cynthia Myers ; Updated July 27, 2017
Man receiving money from an ATM.

Banks may seem like large, imposing institutions, but they are staffed by people, and people can make mistakes, as can technology. Regularly checking your account and paying attention to your bank statements will help you catch bank errors. Report the error to your bank and provide any documentation you have, such as deposit slips, ATM receipts and canceled checks.

When to Report an Error

As soon as you discover an error in your bank account, notify your bank. Start with a phone call to the manager of your bank branch, but follow up with a written notice and include all the details about the error and your account. The sooner you notify bank management of the error, the more easily the error can be traced and corrected. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, most banks require you to notify them of any errors within 30 days of you receiving your statement, though that can vary by bank or state. The deposit account agreement you signed when you opened your account spells out your bank’s rules for reporting errors. If the error involved an ATM deposit or withdrawal or other electronic funds transfer, you have 60 days from the date of your statement to report an error.

If the Bank Doesn't Respond

Most of the time, your bank will correct an error promptly. The bank has 10 days to correct an error involving an electronic funds transfer, but, according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, there is no set time period for a bank to correct an error involving a written check. Sometimes you’ll have to work a little harder. For instance, if you don’t have proof that the bank was in the wrong, such as an ATM receipt, you might face resistance from a bank employee. If speaking to someone higher up the chain of command doesn’t solve the problem, you have the right to file a complaint with the federal agency that oversees your bank. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency oversees federal banks, while the Federal Reserve looks after state-chartered banks. These agencies will investigate your claim for you.

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Error in Your Favor

If your bank makes an error in your favor, you might be tempted to keep quiet about it. But just because your bank mistakenly deposited an extra $10, $100 or $1,000 in your account doesn’t mean the money is legally yours. Even if you don’t point out the error, the bank conducts regular audits of its account to catch these kinds of mistakes, and the bank will take the money out of your account. If you don’t repay the windfall, you could face criminal charges for theft. Avoid this and point out any bank errors, whether they’re in your favor or not.

Tips for Reporting Errors

Keep a record of everyone you speak to regarding the bank error, including their name, the date and what was discussed. Make copies of any receipts or other documentation before you hand them over to the bank. Ask for a timeline for the error to be investigated and follow up if you haven’t received an answer by that date. If the error involves a debit or credit card, report any errors in writing.

About the Author

Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.

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