Overdraft Fees Hit Unsuspecting Consumers
Despite two-year-old regulatory reforms that demanded that consumers affirmatively opt-in to costly overdraft programs for debit transactions, more than half of the consumers who incurred an overdraft fee over the past year were surprised to find out that they had overdraft coverage, according to a new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Indeed, over one third of those surveyed were unaware that their bank even offered overdraft coverage until they incurred a penalty. Young and low-income consumers are the hardest hit, with consumers under the age of 44 and those with less than $30,000 in income twice as likely as older and wealthier consumers to incur overdraft fees, according to the report.
'I think there is a lot of confusion about opting in for overdraft coverage overall,' says Susan Weinstock, author of the report, who recommends a food-label-style disclosure that would lay out consumer options and costs for overdrafts at the time of opening an account.
Weinstock, who heads Pew's safe checking project, says that differences in how different types of overdrafts are handled could confuse consumers. However, their study only considered overdrafts caused by debit transactions covered by the new law, so consumers are also confused about the fees charged on overdrafts that demanded their advance permission to be levied. Indeed, she says Pew focus group research has found that consumers are sometimes so befuddled by the opt-in process that some have opted in, thinking that by signing the form they had actually opted-out.
'They don't understand that by doing nothing, they cannot be charged,' she says. 'We've had people say, 'I signed the form so that they can't charge me,' when that's how they opt into the most costly overdraft plans.'
Read the full article at cbsnews.com.
- Safe Checking in the Electronic Age