Some banks limit how often you can transfer money out of a savings account. Exceeding the allowed quota of transfers via ATM, electronic bill payment or other methods could result in being charged a fee, having your savings account changed to a checking account or even having the account closed. For a long time, banking regulations required financial institutions to follow the six-transfer limit to make sure the banking system had enough ready money to function properly. That rule was changed in 2020 but some banks still cap the number of monthly withdrawals. For help with banking or other money questions, talk to a financial advisor.
Savings accounts are the most basic kind of bank account and represent many people’s first exposure to the financial system. They are simple and safe. Designed to help people accumulate funds for long- and medium-term financial goals, deposits to savings accounts earn interest and also feature protection against loss provided by the Financial Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
Savings accounts may be called other things, such as passbook accounts and statement savings accounts and money market deposit accounts. However, in keeping with their intended purpose of simply accumulating funds, savings accounts by any name are generally straightforward and offer only a limited set of features.
Savings accounts are oriented toward providing uncomplicated security rather than facilitating transactions as other types of accounts such as checking accounts do. Basic savings accounts generally don’t offer check-writing capabilities or debit cards, for instance. You can withdraw some or all your funds from a savings account any time you want, but it’s not as easy as it is with a checking account.
Savings accounts have long allowed depositors to make only six transfers out of the accounts each month. Exceeding the six-transfer limit could result in being charged a fee or having the account changed to a checking account, which usually meant not earning interest any longer. Sometimes an account that went over the limit might even be closed.
Depositors could always get their funds and only certain types of transfers, called convenient transfers, were affected. They included debit card transactions, transfers from a computer or mobile device such as a phone, electronic funds transfers (EFTs) including Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfers and overdraft transfers to a linked checking account. In-person and ATM transactions at a bank branch as well as phone transactions requesting a paper check weren’t limited.
The original reason for transfer limits was a rule called Regulation D issued by the Federal Reserve. This rule was part of the Fed’s system of imposing reserve requirements on banks. Reserve requirements force banks to keep a certain percentage of deposits rather than lending out all the money received from depositors. Reserve requirements help maintain stability in the banking system.
In 2019 the Fed decided to move to a different approach to managing the monetary system that affected the reserve requirements. As part of this change, it dropped Regulation D. The change was announced and became effective in 2020 and at the time the Fed also explained it as a way to make it easier for depositors to handle the financial stress and bank branch closings associated with the COVID-19 pandemic by having easier access to their funds.
As a result of this change, many banks dropped the limit and now allow unlimited transfers from savings accounts. Some banks describe the change as temporary, but the Fed has indicated it has no plans to reinstate Regulation D’s. Savings deposit customers who want to be able to make unlimited withdrawals from their savings accounts can identify banks that will accommodate them by checking the banks’ account terms.
However, while banks were allowed to drop the six-transfer limit, they were not required to eliminate it. And many banks kept the limit, as well as the fees, account conversions and closings for violators.
Banks’ explanations for maintaining the now-optional limit are similar to those underlying the original rationale for the Fed’s imposition of the rule. That is, it helps them maintain adequate reserves and ensure that should a lot of bank customers suddenly want to withdraw their funds, the money would be there.
Transfer limits may keep savings account customers from making more than six transfers out of their accounts during a month. This is changing, as the financial industry reacts to a federal rule change that eliminated a long-standing cap on savings account transfers that was intended to maintain the stability of the financial system. But some banks still impose the limit on many types of transfers, charging fees, converting savings accounts to checking accounts and even closing accounts when customers do too many transfers.