The $30 Bank Fee You Don’t Have to Pay If You Use This Script

published Oct 31, 2020
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Big U.S. banks collected more than $11 billion in overdraft fees last year, according to an analysis from the Center for Responsible Lending.  While policies and fee amounts vary by bank, overdraft charges are typically $30 to $35 a pop—a superfluous expense that can feel like a sucker punch amid an economic downturn. 

Something called the Overdraft Protection Act has been introduced in Congress in an attempt to reign in overdraft fees and put caps on how banks charge these fees, since federal regulators have encouraged banks to waive these types of fees during the coronavirus pandemic. But on a personal level, did you know that you can probably advocate to get your own overdraft fees reversed? 

Overdraft fees, as it turns out, are fairly negotiable, financial experts say. 

“Banks can reverse overdraft fees at their own discretion,” says Chanelle Bessette, banking specialist at NerdWallet. “If you’re a customer who is in good standing and you don’t have a history of overdrafts, then banks will be much more likely to waive your overdraft fee.”

If you have a pending deposit that would cover your negative balance, ask your bank if they have a “rewind” program, Bessette suggests. These programs give customers more time to fund their account so that they can reverse an overdraft fee. 

The key in getting an overdraft fee reversed is to be as clear and prescriptive as possible, says Christina Lucey, Credit Karma’s director of product management.

“Ask for what you want because the worst they can say is ‘no.’’ says Lucey. 

Often, getting your fee waived is a matter of getting the right bank representative, says financial consultant Steve Sexton, the president of Sexton Advisory Group. In a pre-COVID times, he would have recommended going to the bank in person as negotiations almost always work better face-to-face, he says. But sometimes it’s a matter of hanging up and trying at another time of day, with the hopes that you’ll get a different customer service representative on the line. If the rep isn’t budging (they might not have the magic wand needed to waive the fees), you can ask to speak to a supervisor. Of course, remain polite and patient throughout, Sexton says. “Nothing forces negotiations to go south faster than a bad attitude,” he says. 

Here’s the exact script Sexton provides to clients: 

Bank Representative: I see the fee. Unfortunately, we are not able to waive that fee, because of [reason].

You: I’ve been a good customer with [multiple accounts] for [number] years now. I would still like to get the fee waived, especially since it’s been a rarity for me. What can you do to help me?

What’s also worth noting is a 2010 rule instituted by the Federal Reserve that prohibited financial institutions from charging customers overdraft fees on ATM or debit transactions, Lucey says, unless the customer opts in to their overdraft protection, which generally allows them to make debit card purchases or ATM withdrawals even if there aren’t enough funds in the account. 

“So, if you haven’t opted in and received confirmation, you shouldn’t have to worry about over-limit fees. Your card issuer may decline the transaction or let you go over, but it can’t charge you a fee,” Lucey says.

To avoid any overdraft fees in the future, Lucey recommends setting up balance alerts. Some financial institutions will alert you when your account dips below a specific amount so you’ll know when to transfer or deposit more money into your account to cover upcoming transactions. 

One final piece of advice: We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, and a lot of people are facing financial hardship

“If your bank is being rigid with its overdraft policies, it might be time to think about switching to a bank that offers a more flexible overdraft program with no or low overdraft fees,” Bessette says.