After being shut out of their accounts for nearly a full day, some BB&T customers may be wondering whether they should get another bank account. Experts say having multiple bank accounts can be useful, but it isn’t foolproof.
BB&T BBT, +1.91% a regional bank based in Winston-Salem, N.C., notified customers that a systems outage had affected many of its services including online banking, ATMs and the company’s mobile app. As a result, customers were left with no easy way of checking their account balances — and some were concerned that automatic payments may not go through.
Many customers said on Twitter TWTR, +1.71% and Facebook FB, +2.40% that they planned to close their accounts with BB&T over the fiasco. But if they do so, they may want to split their funds across more than one account, particularly if they don’t use credit cards, said Cameron Huddleston, life and money columnist for GoBankingRates and a BB&T customer.
@BBT issues like this should’ve been resolved hours ago. No one should go beyond 24 hours with no access to their accounts.
— soleil s. (@soleilsays) February 23, 2018
— Stephanie Santos 🦄🧜🏽♀️💜🌻🌙 (@thaunicornmom) February 23, 2018
been wanting to close my personal and business accounts with @BBT for a while, but this ridiculous system issue due to “equipment malfunction” is just the final reason. so annoyed.
— Cindy Lozano (@cindylozanog) February 23, 2018
“A lot of people can get by with one bank account,” Huddleston said. “You just have to make sure you have another way to pay for things.”
While rare, system outages can affect banks and their customers. A similar outage affected 5% of customers at Simple, an online bank, last summer.
Why having multiple bank accounts is a good idea
A study released by GoBankingRates in January found that 50% of Americans have multiple bank accounts.
Having more than one account isn’t just useful when it comes to a system outage like this, of course. “It’s a way to easily segregate money for different purposes,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at personal-finance site Bankrate.
Huddleston said her family originally opened two bank accounts to take advantage of an offer when getting a home equity line of credit. They’ve continued to maintain those two accounts since then. One is funded by her husband’s paycheck and is used for monthly bills.
She deposits her salary in the other for household expenses such as groceries, with the remainder being transferred to savings each month. Having a separate account can also be useful when building up funds for a major purchase, Huddleston said.
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There are other advantages to having multiple accounts, though. For starters, consumers can derive benefit from transferring money between accounts when the savings rate on one changes, McBride said. Plus, it adds flexibility or can keep money safe if a bank account number falls into the wrong hands somehow.
And particularly wealthy individuals will want to maintain multiple accounts. Bank accounts are only insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. up to $250,000 per depositor. So someone who has more money in the bank than that will need more than one account to guarantee that all of their deposits are insured.
The downsides to multiple bank accounts
There are two main drawbacks to maintaining multiple checking or savings accounts. For starters, someone who isn’t well organized could find it easy to lose track of their money. “It takes some mental energy to keep track of it all,” McBride said.
The bigger issue concerns fees. Some banks have requirements that an account be funded through regular direct deposits or remain above a certain minimum balance. Account holders who don’t meet those criteria on an ongoing basis may be charged.
Therefore, be fully aware of any and all potential fees, Huddleston said. “The last thing you want to do is pay fees at more than one bank,” she said. “If you’re a single person with a single monthly income meeting those requirements at multiple banks can be difficult.”
BB&T will reimburse customers
The BB&T outage resulted from an equipment malfunction at one of the bank’s data centers, a spokesman said, and did not expose customers’ personal information to potential ID thieves. As of Friday afternoon, phone service and ATMs were back in use, and the company said it would keep many branches open later Friday and add weekend hours to accommodate customers needing help.
BB&T has said it will reimburse or waive fees customers incurred because of the outage. “We understand our clients are frustrated, and we’re committed to making this right,” the company said. “We’re also here to assist clients with any other challenges they experienced.