Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports: Overdraft Protection May Not Always Be the Best Bet

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is out with a new study finding consumers who opt in to debit card and ATM overdraft are still at risk of incurring exorbitant fees, despite recent regulatory changes.

Collecting overdraft fees is good business for banks and credit unions, generating an estimated $33 billion a year. And at least two large banks have been accused of using deceptive practices to get you to sign up, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Consumer Reports' advice: don’t be pressured into getting overdraft protection. It’s not mandatory.

Consumer Reports says you’re better off declining overdraft protection altogether. Your transaction might get denied, but one study shows you’ll save more than $20 a month in checking fees.

Instead, sign up for text and email alerts that flag low balances. And link your checking to a savings account which can cover shortfalls, either for free or a relatively small fee.

Consumer Reports also recommends signing up for banking mobile apps so you can check your balance before you make that purchase. That way you’ll know before you swipe if you’ve got enough cash to cover the charge.

The CFPB also found the consumers who overdraw their accounts the most are those who are most financially vulnerable, carrying low bank account balances and with lower credit scores.

If despite all your efforts you are charged the occasional overdraft fee, call or visit where you bank and ask for the fee to be waived.

Banks and credit unions will often extend that courtesy to good customers.

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