January 9, 2011

Reader Story - Overdraft Protection

I got a e-mail this week from one of our readers, Will.  He was devastated having recently discovered $400 in over-draft fees on his checking account.  An all too common story...he thought he had an automated transfer set up to avoid this type of situation.  Instead his account hit zero, and soon even a cup of coffee was costing him $20!

My advise was fourfold:

  1. Get money in that account NOW! Maybe a given, but the last thing he needs at this point is more fees.  You don't want the bank to have any reason to hold this accident against you.  Give them there money back and double check all of the automated transfer settings to make sure this doesn't happen again.
  2. Go to your local branch and discuss the situation with a customer relations manager. If your overdraft was a simple & uncommon mistake, usually the personal touch will get you some or all of your money back.  It's more important to the banks that they keep you happy so that you stay a long-term customer, rather than hoarding these type of fees.  If it was clearly an accident an isn't an everyday occurrence, be persistent and insist on your money back.  I'd be well-prepared to put my money elsewhere if they didn't offer me anything back on that $400.
  3. Start shopping around for a new bank account.  Many banks offer free overdraft protection.  Find a bank that has a plan that is better suited to you.
  4. Set up alerts!  If your bank won't notify you that you're about to overdraft, then sign up for a free service like www.mint.com.  Mint will send e-mail or cell phone alerts letting you know before something becomes a problem.
Reluctantly, Will went into his bank, and they greeted him kindly.  Not only did they refund him $200 and changed his fee structure to $0.99/overdraft, they also ran a free credit check and gave him some long-term strategies for improving his credit. Let your bank work for you, and develop a relationship at your local branch.  

What's your over-draft horror story?

1 comment:

  1. Of course, there are limits. You’ll find different limits on the dollar amount that an overdraft protection plan will cover. Also, you may have your privileges revoked if you frequently write checks in excess of your available balance.

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