Overdraft Changes Could Save Customers $3.5 Billion

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That’s how much bank customers could save annually because a wave of major banks have curtailed their overdraft fees over the past year, according to one analysis.

The projected savings stem from fee changes at 13 banks identified by Alex Horowitz, a researcher at Pew Charitable Trusts, including four of the five biggest U.S. banks by assets: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and U.S. Bank. 

Charging someone for overdrawing their bank account has become increasingly unpopular in recent months, particularly since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said it was eyeing banks that heavily relied on such fees. Banks have reduced, relaxed, or completely eliminated several types of charges, including fees for people with insufficient funds and fees for providing overdraft protection (meaning the bank prevents a check or debit from bouncing.) 

By definition, overdraft fees disproportionately affect people living paycheck to paycheck, raising philosophical questions about whether banks should help fight income inequality by empowering people to pay their bills on time. Capital One, for instance, is giving customers individualized overdraft limits—free of charge—based on their deposit history and other factors.

Customers shopping around can compare what different institutions charge for overdraft fees using this table published by the CFPB this month.

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