Wesabe user ‘haberschmidt’ just posted a fantastic piece in the Wesabe Groups section, under the Smart Banking discussion about overdraft fee policies at the top U.S. banks. In the post, haberschmidt details how many different ways Wachovia has found to charge overdraft fees:
As the net effect, there should have been zero fees for overdrafts, but Wachovia ratcheted it up to 7 overdrafts for $245 in fees. I am absolutely appalled, and it has nothing to do with indignation over payment, since I ended up resolving the overdraft protection issue at the branch level and getting the fees removed. […]
Although the branch corrected the overdraft protection issue and reversed the fees, I am closing my accounts. I believe strongly in voting with my dollars and I don’t want to belong to a bank that takes advantage of its customers in this way. It strikes me as a predatory practice, and the kind of thing of which Congress should be aware when it reviews regulation on the credit card companies and other financial industry practices.
The entire post is well worth reading, since it applies to at least nine of the top ten banks in the U.S., and many others besides.
When we first launched Wesabe last November, we were not surprised to see that our #1 top merchant at that point was Amazon, and #2 was Netflix. That matched well with the stereotype of “early adopters.” What was surprising, though, was the merchant #20 was Overdraft Fee. If you think overdraft fees just hit people who are “bad with money,” they don’t — they hit a huge percentage of the population, and as Wesabe has grown, we’ve seen that more and more. Currently, our users have been charged roughly $200,000.00 in overdraft charges in just the past few months — an average of one overdraft charge for each and every person tracking their money on Wesabe. That’s a huge amount of money for consumers to lose, when it could instead be going to pay their bills or improve their lives. We’re out to help our members reduce that number to $0.
The good news is, we also see that almost 70 of those overdrafts, amounting to about $5,000.00 in fees, have been refunded by the banks — including, it sounds like, haberschmidt’s $245.00, and $216.00 in overdraft fees Washington Mutual tried to charge me a few months ago. That’s a good start, but we can get that down a lot from where it is now. In the past three months, I’ve spent a grand total of $1.50 on bank fees — down from $1,425.00 in the year I started working on Wesabe. (And I’m really mad about that $1.50!)
Whenever you see a fee on your bank account, ask the bank to refund it, and if they don’t, start looking for a bank that won’t charge you that fee. And check out haberschmidt’s post — it’s great for every consumer to read.