Bank of America will drop overdraft fees for debit cards

Charlotte ObserverMarch 10, 2010 

Bank of America is dropping one of the banking industry's most-criticized fees.

No longer will customers be charged an overdraft fee when they use their debit card and don't have enough money in their accounts. Instead, the transaction will be denied, unless the customer has signed up for an overdraft protection service that links their card to a savings account or credit card.

The Charlotte bank is going a step farther than a new federal regulation that kicks in July 1. Under those rules, banks can't charge overdraft fees on debit card purchases or ATM withdrawals unless customers provide their consent.

The bank's move comes as Congress and regulators look more closely at banking industry fees. The change will affect the customers at the nation's largest consumer bank and will probably prompt other banks to weigh their own policies.

Bank of America said it's the biggest bank to eliminate the fees so far and that it was reacting to customers' comments.

"Customers were saying, 'Don't let us spend money we don't have," spokeswoman Anne Pace said.

Bank of America said debit card purchases are the most common way its customers overdraw their accounts. In those transactions, the bank said it is unable to alert customers that they have insufficient funds and are about to incur a fee.

The new debit card policy starts June 19 for new accounts and at the end of August for existing accounts. The bank will continue to charge overdraft fees in transactions involving checks or automated recurring drafts such as a gym membership. Last year the bank's ATMs started notifying customers if a withdrawal will cause an overdraft fee, and they are then allowed to choose whether to proceed.

Last fall, Bank of America stopped charging overdraft fees if an account was overdrawn by less than $10 in a day. It had also stopped charging overdraft fees on more than four instances per day. The fee was $35 per overdraft. Instead, the transaction will be denied, unless the customer has signed up for an overdraft protection service that links their card to a savings account or credit card.

The Charlotte bank is going a step farther than a new federal regulation that kicks in July 1. Under those rules, banks can't charge overdraft fees on debit card purchases or ATM withdrawals unless customers provide their consent.

The bank's move comes as Congress and regulators look more closely at banking industry fees. The change will affect the customers at the nation's largest consumer bank and will probably prompt other banks to weigh their own policies.

Bank of America said it's the biggest bank to eliminate the fees so far and that it was reacting to customers' comments.

"Customers were saying, 'Don't let us spend money we don't have," spokeswoman Anne Pace said.

Bank of America said debit card purchases are the most common way its customers overdraw their accounts. In those transactions, the bank said it is unable to alert customers that they have insufficient funds and are about to incur a fee.

The new debit card policy starts June 19 for new accounts and at the end of August for existing accounts. The bank will continue to charge overdraft fees in transactions involving checks or automated recurring drafts such as a gym membership. Last year the bank's ATMs started notifying customers if a withdrawal will cause an overdraft fee, and they are then allowed to choose whether to proceed.

Last fall, Bank of America stopped charging overdraft fees if an account was overdrawn by less than $10 in a day. It had also stopped charging overdraft fees on more than four instances per day. The fee was $35 per overdraft.

Read the full story at CharlotteObserver.com

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