A $2 fee at the ATM, $10 here…$30 there? You may not think anything of, or be bothered by, small fees here and there, but theses fees charged by banks can really add up, if you’re not paying attention.
If banks weren’t in the news enough already, a national poll by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that many consumers do not understand how overdraft programs work.
According to the Consumer Reports poll, 39 percent of consumers thought that their bank would either deny a debit transaction or allow it to proceed without charging a fee if it would overdraw their account. Nearly half of those polled thought their ATM card would not work if they attempted to withdraw more money than was available in their account.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. It’s estimated that banks collect $7.8 billion in fees from overdrafts triggered by debit and ATM transactions. The majority of consumers have bank accounts that automatically enroll customers in programs that allow debit and ATM transactions to trigger overdrafts.
The Federal Reserve Board is currently considering whether consumers should be given the right to opt-in before banks can enroll them in overdraft programs covering ATM and debit transactions or simply a right to opt-out after the bank has signed them up for the “overdraft protection.”
Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, is urging the Fed to require banks to get their customers’ permission before enrolling them in overdraft programs. “If banks believe that overdraft programs are truly beneficial, then they should be required to persuade their customers to sign up before they can charge them such high fees,” said Lauren Zeichner Bowner, Staff Attorney for Consumers Union. “The Fed should end automatic enrollment in costly overdraft programs by giving consumers the choice to opt-in.”
If you are concerned about overdraft fees and protection programs at your bank, you have until March 30 to send your comments and concerns to the Federal Reserve Board. For more information and to submit your comments to the Fed, go to http://cu.convio.net/OverDraft.