INDIANAPOLIS – Overdraft fees are still causing problems for Americans, especially those already dealing with financial troubles, a new report from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau shows.
According to the CFPB, overdraft and non-sufficient fund fees cost American consumers $7.7 billion last year. In addition, complaints about the fees have quadrupled in the last year. Many of those complaints came from people who overdrew their accounts by less than the $34 fee they had to pay.
There have been moves in the opposite direction, however. Bank of American lowered their fees from $35 to $10, reducing the company’s revenue from the fees by 90%. About a year ago, Regions Bank was ordered to refund $140 million to customers who were charged illegal surprise overdraft fees. Also, PNC Bank is no longer charging non-sufficient funds fees and is working to limit overdraft fees.
These are all positive steps for those who are struggling to cover their bills and payments every month.
According to research by PYMNTS, 39% of people who live paycheck to paycheck we’re slept with overdraft fees in the last year, compared to 6% who do not live paycheck to paycheck. 90% of people who got hit with an overdraft fee, also had other financial struggles. And two thirds of overdraft fees lead to additional credit problems.
There are ways to avoid the risk of overdraft fees, although they can be tricky.
Avoiding the overdraft fees can include meeting your bank’s requirements, such as maintaining a minimum balance or setting up direct deposit. Overdraft protection could be a good idea, but you might need to link to a secondary account to serve as a back up to your checking account. That could include a savings account or a credit card.
Some banks also offer “overdraft forgiveness” where they waive the fee for a first-time offense or give you a period of time to replenish your account.
In general, financial experts say it’s a good idea to talk to your bank and make sure you’re clear on the conditions. Scheduling a meeting in person is a good idea if you can.