Table of Contents

I Discovered I Had 12 Bank Accounts. How Many Do You Really Need?

If you have too many accounts, you may be losing money. Here's why.

Why You Can Trust CNET Money
Our mission is to help you make informed financial decisions, and we hold ourselves to strict . This post may contain links to products from our partners, which may earn us a commission. Here’s a more detailed explanation of .
blackred/Getty Images

Key takeaways

  • The ideal number of bank accounts depends on a number of factors, including whether you have a partner, own a business or prefer separate accounts for your goals.
  • If you’re having trouble managing your bank accounts, you might have too many.
  • You could boost your savings by consolidating small balances into one account that earns a higher interest rate.

When my spouse and I went into our credit union to open a new account, we discovered a forgotten joint checking account from an old auto loan we paid off decades ago. Also, three current checking accounts. And eight savings accounts sprinkled with small balances. 

In short, we were sitting on a lot of missed financial opportunities.

If you’re not sure how many bank accounts you have, you’re not alone. Many of us start off with good money management intentions and a straightforward checking account. But over the years, our banking habits become a tangled web of unused accounts and pockets of electronic pennies languishing in savings. 

While it’s always nice to find money you’ve forgotten -- the electronic version of discovering change in the couch -- it brings up an important question. How many bank accounts do you need to properly manage your money, and is it possible to have too many?

How many bank accounts do I really need?

Like most things in life, banking is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The ideal number of bank accounts is going to vary from person to person depending on your financial needs. 

Here are a few questions to consider before you decide how best to consolidate (or expand) your approach to banking.

  • Do you need to keep personal and business finances separate?
  • Are you going to be managing money jointly with someone else?
  • Would having separate accounts for different financial goals help you save?
  • Do you get overwhelmed or confused when you have multiple accounts that require different passwords and logins?

The answer to these questions can help strike the right balance between maximizing your savings, cutting down on confusion, and putting your money to work for you. 

Many experts advise starting with a checking account, accompanied by two savings accounts. The primary savings account should be short-term savings that functions as an emergency fund and is easy to access. Ideally, the secondary savings account would be a high-yield savings, CD or money market account earning more interest. 

That way the majority of funds that you squirrel away for long-term financial goals are turning a more significant profit while parked in your account.

Should I have more than one bank account?

There are a few reasons why, when it comes to bank accounts, more is better. While cutting down on accounts might eliminate confusion, you don’t want to miss out on opportunities to save or earn money. 

Here are just a few reasons you should consider having more than one bank account:

Build your savings 

One of the best predictors of whether Americans had an emergency fund was if they had a savings account, a 2020 study published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues found. Having a separate spot to stash your money can encourage you to save because out of sight, out of mind. The best high-yield savings accounts and money market accounts offer competitive interest rates, helping you grow your savings faster.

Keep your business finances separate

Many small business owners or even the self-employed maintain multiple bank accounts to keep personal and business finances separate for both accounting, liability and tax purposes.

Share or teach money management

Spouses, couples, or parents and family members often open joint accounts that are separate from their personal accounts so they can manage money and work on achieving shared financial goals. The best debit cards for kids and teens can help your children reach their goals with features like educational tools and spending controls.

Earn bank bonuses or other perks

Some banks and credit unions offer attractive incentives for opening new accounts. Just keep in mind that earning these bank bonuses usually require maintaining a certain account balance for a period of time.

Save for long-term financial goals

Budgeting for big ticket items like a dream vacation, a new car or house, college, wedding or even retirement requires squirreling away savings for the long haul. Separating these funds into a CD or money market account with a higher yield rate can help you reach your family’s financial goals a little sooner.

Diversify your savings

And last but not least, if you have more than $250,000 at a single bank, the FDIC suggests diversifying with another institution with different financial products because you’re only insured up to that amount per person per bank.

How can I tell if I have too many bank accounts?

There are a few red flags that indicate you’ve accumulated too many bank accounts. And it’s not just that you’ve forgotten funds or can’t figure out how to access the account because you’ve misplaced your password (again). 

  1. You’ve been charged a penalty for failing to keep a minimum balance in an account you don’t use frequently. That’s a sign you should reevaluate. While opening (or closing) bank accounts doesn’t affect your credit score, it might if you have unpaid fees turned over to a collections agency.
  2. You have multiple accounts with small balances that earn little (or no) interest. Some bank accounts like online HYSA accounts provide a higher annual percentage yields depending on your balance, so you’ll get more bang for your buck by consolidating smaller savings accounts with lower APYs.
  3. You can’t regularly monitor all your bank accounts for fraudulent charges or suspicious activity. You should consider a more focused approach to your finances.

How to find old bank accounts

If you know the names of places you’ve bank currently or have kept money in the past, it’s usually a matter of contacting the institution and asking them if they have an account in your name. If you previously had an account with a bank that has failed or closed, you can begin a search for the funds at FDIC Unclaimed Funds

If you think you might have old bank accounts that you’ve forgotten about, you can visit unclaimed.org and search by your state or missingmoney.com for a nationwide search. Both are free to use, and you can search by any names you’ve used to find old bank accounts and other unclaimed property that’s been turned over to the state due to account inactivity or missing contact info. 

How to manage multiple bank accounts

Managing a few different checking or savings accounts at the same institution should be straightforward. But if you’re struggling with multiple accounts at different banks, the best budgeting apps can link those accounts and provide your balance and transaction info all in one place. 

Having multiple accounts at different banks can also be difficult (and expensive) if you have to do external transfers from one institution to another. Zelle, Venmo and Paypal are great for small sums, but larger sums can take several days and may require a wire transfer.

What happens if I close a bank account?

If you’re concerned that closing a bank account will affect your credit score, rest easy. Neither opening or closing a bank account should change your credit score. 

The caveat to this is if your account isn’t in good standing. Unpaid fees and penalties that have been turned over to collection agencies may be reported to the three major credit bureaus. To avoid this, ensure you’ve canceled automatic payments routed through that account. You’ll need to pay off the negative balance before you try to contact the bank to close it.

The bottom line

For my family, the right number of bank accounts is about finding the sweet spot between practicality, privacy and needless complexity. My spouse and I still have our own personal checking and savings accounts, separate from my business checking and savings account. We also have a joint checking and savings account, a separate savings account for each kid, and a joint money market account.

 

So what’s the perfect number of bank accounts? For us, it’s just shy of a dozen. Your numbers may vary.

Kaz Weida is an educator and freelance journalist who covers insurance, taxes, banking, and a wide array of personal finance topics. In addition to CNET, Kaz contributes to Yahoo Finance, ConsumerAffairs, and Popular Mechanics.
Advertiser Disclosure

CNET editors independently choose every product and service we cover. Though we can’t review every available financial company or offer, we strive to make comprehensive, rigorous comparisons in order to highlight the best of them. For many of these products and services, we earn a commission. The compensation we receive may impact how products and links appear on our site.

Editorial Guidelines

Writers and editors and produce editorial content with the objective to provide accurate and unbiased information. A separate team is responsible for placing paid links and advertisements, creating a firewall between our affiliate partners and our editorial team. Our editorial team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers.

How we make money

CNET Money is an advertising-supported publisher and comparison service. We’re compensated in exchange for placement of sponsored products and services, or when you click on certain links posted on our site. Therefore, this compensation may impact where and in what order affiliate links appear within advertising units. While we strive to provide a wide range of products and services, CNET Money does not include information about every financial or credit product or service.