Overdraft fees are nothing to sneeze at. Having not always been a model bank customer, I know how it feels like an unfair punishment to have roughly $30 taken away when my account is already negative. I’ve also worked for Bank of America, and I can see why they use a dis-incentive to drive away bad customers.
I was a pretty generous Customer Service Rep., and would refund overdraft fees to as many customers as I could. But sometimes there’d be an awkward conversation when a customer would ask, “How can I stop getting these overdraft fees in the future?”
Naturally, I’d go into my speech about keeping a balanced checkbook (or something similar) with you, and how the “available balance” you’d get from an ATM or the phone service was often a lie. Some customers persisted (as well they should) and felt like there should be a way to not be allowed to go negative. It was tricky, and unlikely, but not always impossible to get your branch manager to agree to put that kind of hold on your account.
But now, any Bank of America customer can opt-out of overdrafting. If you’re down to $2.12 in your checking account, and you go to buy a Frappucino, you’ll have your card rejected at the register.
In addition, Bank of America also decided it won’t impose an overdraft fee if your account is above -$10, unless you don’t fix it within five days. And the limit of overdraft fees you can get in one day is now four, instead of ten.
JP Morgan Chase also announced that they’ll be changing their policies:
Starting in the first quarter of 2010, the bank will make overdraft protection opt-in for all customers, post transactions to accounts as they occur, and eliminate fees when accounts are overdrawn by $5 or less. It will also reduce the maximum number of fees per day to three from six.
Bank Of America Backpedals On Overdraft Fees, Huffington Post, Sep. 22, 2009
Updated September 24, 2009 and originally published September 23, 2009.