Blocked Account Definition & Restrictions in Finance, Trade

What Is a Blocked Account?

A blocked account generally refers to a financial account that has some limitations or restrictions placed upon it, temporarily or permanently. Accounts may be blocked or limited for a variety of reasons, including internal bank policies, external regulations, or via a court order or legal decision.

An account that has become completely blocked is referred to as a frozen account.

Key Takeaways

  • Blocked accounts restrict account owners from unlimited and unrestricted use of their funds in that account.
  • Accounts may be blocked or limited for a variety of reasons, including internal bank policies, external regulations, or via a court order or legal decision.
  • An account that has become completely blocked is referred to as a frozen account.

Understanding Blocked Accounts

A blocked account, generally speaking, refers to an account that does not allow for unlimited or indiscriminate withdrawal or other access but instead has certain restrictions or limitations on when, how much, and by who, capital can be withdrawn. Accounts can be blocked in such a manner for several reasons, which may be imposed by a bank's own rules or by external legal rulings—such as in the case of splitting marital assets during a divorce or in the case of a personal bankruptcy.

For instance, a bank may limit cash withdrawals by policy to $2,000 a week for its basic customers, or a judge may rule that no party to a divorce spend more than $500 from bank accounts per week for personal expenses.

Account blocks can be imposed by a bank's own rules or by external legal rulings, such as when filing for bankruptcy or splitting marital assets during a divorce.

If an account becomes completely blocked, it is said to be "frozen." Account freezes are normally the result of a court order and, in some cases, they may be done by the bank itself. This usually occurs when the account holder has unpaid debts to creditors or the government, or when there is suspicious activity detected through the account.

Foreign Exchange Controls

A blocked account can be an account that is subject to foreign exchange controls in a country that restricts the amount of its currency that can be transferred to other countries or exchanged into other currencies

German Blocked Accounts

In Germany, blocked accounts, or Sperrkonto as they are called locally, are a special type of bank account for foreign students not from European Union (EU) member states. As a foreign student, you must provide proof that you have the financial means to pay for your course of studies, and for supporting yourself during your studies. And to prove adequate means often requires a blocked account.

This account is not freely accessible to the account holder. Students have to pay a minimum of 934 euros for each month they plan to be in Germany, and may not withdraw funds until they arrive in the country, nor can they withdraw more than 934 euros per month, unless they have paid more than the minimum amount.

Deposit Account Controls

A blocked account can sometimes refer to a Deposit Account Control Agreement (DACA), which is an agreement between a borrower (or debtor), the secured lender, and a bank maintaining a deposit account. Control under the DACA is established when the bank agrees to comply with directives from the secured lender, without needing the express consent of the borrower.

Frozen Assets

A blocked account can also refer to accounts that are frozen, either by the U.S. government for political reasons, or for other reasons (such as the death of the account holder.)

A blocked account is typically more serious than a frozen account, and the implication of the term is that it is long-term in nature. Once an account in the U.S. is blocked by government mandate (such as during a time of war or distress), no funds in the account can be accessed without a specific release from the U.S. Treasury.

What Happens When a Bank Account is Blocked?

When an account is blocked, it usually means the owner is restricted on how to use the funds held within it, either temporarily or permanently.

Can a Blocked Account Receive Money?

That depends on the type of account and the reason for which it was blocked. Usually, it’s withdrawals that are an issue rather than deposits. However, there may be occasions, such as when a bank account is blocked by a government, when any transaction whatsoever becomes prohibited.

How Does a Blocked Account Work in Germany?

Students from non-EU countries need to prove they have the financial resources to cover their living expenses while residing in Germany. As of 2022, this can require depositing into a German “blocked” account a minimum of €11,208 annually or €934 per month. This money isn’t freely accessible. Funds cannot be withdrawn until the person arrives in Germany. Then, once they arrive, it’s not possible to withdraw more than €861 per month—unless more than the monthly minimum is deposited.

The Bottom Line

The term blocked account has various meanings in trade and finance. It can refer to an account subject to foreign exchange controls, the German “Sperrkonto,” a Deposit Account Control Agreement (DACA), frozen assets, and essentially any instance when a financial account has some limitations or restrictions placed upon it.

Generally speaking, a blocked account is a negative thing and results in account holders being restricted in how they can use their funds.

Article Sources
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  1. Auswärtiges Amt. "Sperrkonto."

  2. DAAD. "Costs of Education and Living."

  3. Study In Germany. "German Blocked Account for International Students."

  4. Joel F. Brown. "Deconstructing DACA: An Analysis of the Model Deposit Account Control Agreement." Commercial Lending Review, September-October 2006.