Should Government Limit Bank Overdraft Fees?

Over-the-top overdraft fees

With this debit transaction cost $35 more than you think?

With this debit transaction cost $35 more than you think?

The Associated Press reports that some senior congressional Democrats want to draw up legislation that would limit how much banks can charge customers in overdraft fees. Personally, I have been slapped with $105 in overdraft charges before for transactions that equaled a lot less than that, so I certainly would feel better knowing that banks are no longer allowed to charge $35 per purchase

Of course, I could have saved a lot of money if I had gotten a payday cash loan. The average fee for a $100 payday loan is $15, so if I would have been smart and taken the initiative, I’d be $90 richer.

Picking on payday loans

Of course, banks do not want this legislation to become a reality. And, of course, as banks always do when when people point out their unethical practices, they are trying to shift focus onto a different institution. The common strategy is that when people say “banks are bad” the banks say “payday lenders are worse!” Even though this is totally untrue. The Associated Press reports:

Michael Menzies, president of Maryland’s Easton Bank and Trust Company, said eliminating overdraft protection for many customers will mean denying charges and embarrassing customers or forcing them to rely on high-cost payday lenders.

Clearly, Menzies has no idea what he is talking about. The numbers I have already presented you with prove that overdrawing your bank account is more expensive than getting a payday loan, even if you’re only charged once. How can a guy whose bank charges $35 when someone goes $1 over their balance point fingers at payday lenders, who charge $15 for a $100 loan?

Overdraft fee legislation

The idea behind the overdraft fee legislation is to require banks to ask customers whether they want overdraft protection or not. Banks insist that their customers would rather be charged an overdraft fee than have their debit card denied, but I am pretty sure that is universally untrue.

How many people do you think have kicked themselves because they bought some cheap thing they didn’t really need and ended up paying an additional $35 for it? Another idea for the overdraft legislation is that banks would only be able to charge customers overdraft fees once a month and no more than six times per year. I think that regulation would really help out customers and it definitely makes sense. I think it is atrocious that banks can charge such high fees over and over, each time you make a purchase after your account is overdrawn. I think it makes a lot more sense to charge the fee only once.

Proportional charges

The senators also say the legislation should require that banks base the overdraft charge on the amount by which the account is overdrawn. As it is now, most banks charge $35, whether the customers overdraws the account by $2 or $200.

Essentially, an overdraft charge is the bank’s way of lending  you money for your purchase — with or without your consent — and charging you for that loan. A $35 fee for a $2 loan is a little ridiculous, but $35 for $200 is understandable.

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