Why Your Bank Is Bugging You About Overdraft Protection

Posted by Andrew Price

A reader at The Baseline Scenario reported getting the letter below. It's Chase Bank writing to ask customers to keep the "overdraft protection" feature on a debit card. Overdraft protection is what lets you (sometimes) make a purchase with your card that exceeds your available funds in exchange for a fee you pay to the bank.chaseJames Kwak notes:

Of course, it's a pretty hard and misleading sell: they focus primarily on the issue of funds availability (deposits may not be available immediately), and they try to frighten you with "an unexpected emergency like a highway tow." If you do get a letter like this and are not sure what it means, remember that the bank will not tell you when you are about to overdraw your account, and it will charge you $34 each time, even multiple times per day, no matter how small the overdraft.
I got a similar letter from my bank. It was equally desperate, but there wasn't even a clear indication of what the overdraft fee was. I'm going to go without overdraft protection for the time being.So why all the letters? Obama's Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act of 2009. Provisions from that act are going into effect now that require that customers opt to sign up for overdraft protection. Before, banks could just give you overdraft protection-and the associated fees-without telling you, and used that as a sneaky way of skimming money off your account.Here are a few more helpful links about the CARD act to aid in your understanding:The White House has a fact sheet that lists the basic provisions in the bill.The New York Times' Bucks blog looks at the big changes in greater depth.Michelle Singletary examines some the loopholes still available to banks in the bill.My take: Unless you're the CEO of a major bank these rules will make your life better.