For the most part, a bank is not required to pay interest on any escrow accounts (also known as mortgage impound accounts) it holds for its customers. But the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) does not specify that these be interest-bearing accounts.
There have been two attempts to pass legislation in 1992 and 1993 regarding the payment of interest on escrow bank accounts. Both of these proposals were declined, and there have not been any further attempts to change the escrow system since, at least on the federal level.
There are some exceptions on the state level. The states that do require interest payments on escrow accounts are as follows:
- New Hampshire
- New York
- Rhode Island
Even in these states, however, there may be legal exceptions that may preclude a bank from paying interest. Many of these states require that any interest earned through an escrow account be paid to the customer. This does not make escrow bank accounts an acceptable alternative to standard savings accounts for several key reasons. First, the HUD caps the total excess deposit amount at one-sixth of the total minimum amount to be deposited and paid out over the year. This limitation severely restricts any compounding customers might typically enjoy in a regular certificate of deposit (CD) or savings account.
Due to this fact, customers who manage their personal finances closely might actually benefit by investing the money they pay into an escrow bank account in other investment vehicles. For those whose credit and loans are highly leveraged already, it might be easiest to make smaller monthly payments rather than one large annual payment. Since mortgage escrows are designed to protect lenders from defaults, the bank ultimately makes the final decision on whether or not it will require a borrower to establish an escrow banking account.