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Excessive Bank Overdraft Fees Continue to Rise

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Miami, FLDespite regulators' attempts to curb excessive overdraft fees, a new study indicates that bank overdraft fees continue to rise. The good news for consumers, according to reports, is that overdraft fees are not rising as quickly as they used to. The bad news is that as more consumers choose not to join programs that charge excessive bank overdraft fees, the banks will likely turn their attentions elsewhere, and find new ways to increase profits.

The study, conducted by Bankrate (www.bankrate.com) is part of the company's annual Checking Survey. It found that the average overdraft fee (called a nonsufficient funds fee by industry insiders) increased again in 2011 to $30.83. That is up from $30.47 in 2010 and marks the 13th straight year of increases. Although the average fee continues to rise, the rate of that growth is slowing down, possibly the result of regulations that prevent banks from automatically enrolling customers in overdraft protection programs.

Meanwhile, according to the South Florida Business Journal (09/26/11), Denver had the highest overdraft fees at $33.50, followed by Miami with $33.05.

Data for the Bankrate study came from surveys of the five largest banks and five largest thrifts in 25 of the biggest markets in the US from August 1, 2011 through August 12, 2011.

The bad news for consumers is that some banks will attempt to make up the loss in overdraft fees by eliminating free checking accounts or by allowing them with certain guidelines, such as requiring the consumer to enroll in direct deposit. In addition to charging maintenance fees more frequently, Bankrate found that the average maintenance fee rose from $2.49 in 2010 to $4.37 in 2011. Furthermore, more banks may begin to charge debit card fees, which could include a transaction fee or an annual fee.

Lawsuits have been filed against banks, alleging they use unfair practices to push customers into overdraft too quickly, allowing the banks to increase their profits from overdraft fees. According to Bloomberg (09/28/11), one lawsuit, involving allegations against 30 banks, was put on hold recently after a judge ruled that banks cannot force customers into arbitration to pursue claims. A spokesperson for the banks said they would file an appeal. The judge then delayed the trial so an appeals court can review his ruling.

In February 2011, Bank of America Corp. agreed to pay $410 million to settle claims brought by its customers regarding its overdraft policies. The bank did not admit liability.

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READER COMMENTS

Posted by

on
a few months ago i was hit with an over abundance of overdraft fees because the bank atm would not let me take more than 20$ out at a given time and needed 100+$ for medical treatment for my Pet and then woodforest started up a second account for me to pay the overdraft and fees back to charging me an extra 16$ a month for the service and when it was payed off i signed a paper stating that in 30 days my overdraft service would be reinstated as long as i kept my account out of the negative which i did but after i had finished with this account right before they closed it they charged me another fee that was not suppose to be charged and put my account into the negative but then immediately refunded the charge but due to this they used their mistake as an excuse to permanently stop my over-drafting and now if i need to do so i must go to the bank and do it through the manager which isn't that bad if i didn't sleep during opening hours and only be awake after they close (its how my schedule at present is and i cant help it) so now if i'm in a bind and need even 1 can of cat food i'm forced to wait until they open the next day and hope the manager isn't out or on vacation. i thought this bank was sued and fined for using deceitful practices yet this instance is certainly a perfect example of a deceitful practice. can anyone please help or offer guidance? i am also disabled so this certainly doesnt help having to do double the walking to get to the bank while i have a hole in my spine amongst other problems causing pain and the trip to the store the bank is located in is not pedestrian friendly nor handicap accessible in any way and you have a choice of being hit by a vehicle at night since they shut off many of the lights or the choice of traversing down a very steep slick grassy/muddy hill chancing breaking a leg.

Posted by

on
I closed my account on August 21,2012. Woodforest bank is still letting items go through and charging me overdrafts on the items.

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