When a borrower/debtor owes money to a bank and also has money on deposit with the bank, the bank has a right to setoff the debt owed to it against the funds on deposit. This right is based on the contract with the bank the debtor signed when he or she first opened the account as well as the general common law.
1. How does a bank setoff work?
Setoff means that the bank has the right to offset the debt owed to it against the funds it holds on deposit in any account of the debtor, including checking, savings, money market, and certificates of deposit (CDs). The bank is not required to provide advance notice to the debtor of its intention to exercise its right of setoff. The bank deducts the funds from the debtor’s account and credits them against the debt owed to the bank. Once the bank has setoff the debtor’s funds against the debt owed to the bank this may cause the debtor’s account to overdraft because the account will have insufficient funds to cover outstanding checks after the bank has setoff. For people whose paycheck is directly deposited to their bank, an additional problem is that they can find their funds swept up by the bank on an ongoing basis for more than one pay period.