Consumers cry foul over bank, debit card fees

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WASHINGTON –– Carolyn Williams was unsure about the exact amount in her bank account when she went shopping. She wasn’t really worried because she knew her debit card would only cover costs for the amount of money she had in the bank.

WASHINGTON –– Carolyn Williams was unsure about the exact amount in her bank account when she went shopping. She wasn’t really worried because she knew her debit card would only cover costs for the amount of money she had in the bank.

Williams learned an expensive lesson when she checked her account and discovered that not only was she charged for more than she had but each purchase over the amount of money she had also cost her $35 in bank fees.

“I spent $50 more than I had in my account on three purchases and I was charged $35 each time. So a $50 overdraft cost me $105. I couldn’t believe it. Why didn’t they just decline the charge?” she asked The Final Call.

“This is a problem. I didn’t ask them to advance me the $50, but they did. And it cost me a whopping $105. I didn’t have the $50. Now I’m overdrawn $165.”

This practice of advancing loans to bank customers is under review by the Federal Reserve Board. It is considering implementing a new rule that would require financial institutions to get explicit permission before enrolling their account holders in an overdraft system that automatically approves debit card and ATM transactions and assesses an average $34 fee if there is a negative balance in the account.

In a recent study by the Center for Responsible Lending, U.S. consumers overwhelmingly ––83 percent–– said they want to be asked their preference before a bank or credit union enrolls them in a program to cover debit card purchases when they do not have the funds.

Financial institutions typically enroll their customers in a system that covers debit card overdrafts and then assesses customers an average $34 fee for each transaction, often on the purchase of an item that costs less than the fee itself.

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Copyright 2009 Special to the NNPA from the Final Call. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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