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, which can occur for various reasons and rationales.

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

Very broadly, a blocked account 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or other access but instead has certain restrictions or limitations on when, how much, and by who, capital can be withdrawn.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.

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

In Germany, blocked accounts work something like this, for foreign students not from 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 720 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 720 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

It 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.