What we know now about overdraft privilege

Overdraft privilege appears to have been widely covered in the media over the past 12 months.  We wanted to address some of the most recent worries that have been raised in these news pieces because overdraft privilege programs have received a lot of negative attention and inaccurate information.

  1. Overdraft Privilege has not undergone any new regulatory changes: In July the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services passed the H.R. 4277, the Overdraft Protection Act. This legislation has been presented by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY) every year since 2009 to the House and has never pass the Senate.  Although the banking industry has evolved significantly since the initial version of the bill was introduced in 2009, its language has remained stagnant and does not take into account the realities faced by modern consumers.  Since the initial version of the bill was introduced, financial institutions have made considerable adjustments to their overdraft programs to be more consumer friendly.  Because overdraft privilege “remains one of the few short-term liquidity products available to consumers within the well-regulated, well supervised banking system,” financial institutions are expanding the flexibility of their product offerings to meet consumer demand and are emphasizing choice in an increasingly competitive market.  This is why it will be the same as the previous 10+ years in that this bill won’t go any farther than it already has.
  2. Almost all financial institution still have some sort of Overdraft Privilege Program: August 2021 we started hearing about financial institutions that were eliminating their overdraft fees. What we found that most financial institutions that were eliminating overdraft fees were doing it for specific accounts.  Most of these financial institutions created a ‘checkless’ checking account for consumers who did not want overdrafts/nsf on their checking accounts.  With these accounts, consumers would not have access to checks and also be limited on what they can do with their debit card transactions, providing no overdraft/nsf transactions. Unfortunately, these accounts are not always free accounts.  It seems most financial institutions are charging Monthly Maintenance fees for this account and some financial institutions are even charging excessive transaction fees.  This type of product is not for everyone because there are consumers that still want access to checks and don’t want to pay a monthly maintenance fee for their checking account.   This past year, through surveys we learned that consumers understand overdraft privilege, they would much rather their item be paid instead of returned, consumers believe od fees are reasonable, and they don’t want to see any reduction to their overdraft access. Overdraft Privilege is still a better product for consumers and consumers still want access to an overdraft limit.
  3. Regulatory groups have started to really focus on NSF fees and Re-Presentments: August 2022 FDIC released Supervisory Guidance on Multiple Re-Presentment NSF Fees. The FDIC stated that it is issuing the guidance because of its observations in consumers compliance exams where consumers are charged multiple NSF fees for the same transaction when a merchant resubmits the transaction for payment. The FDIC has also observed that some institutions’ disclosures did not adequately describe the institution’s re-presentment practice. Luckily for Strunk clients we have been sensitive to this issue for quite a while. In the Spring of 2020 Strunk issued suggested language for checking account agreements to all of our clients to provide enhanced disclosure regarding an arbitration provision.  Also, Strunk’s Overdraft Privilege Service Policy has always included specific language regarding re-presentments. These two things provide for a very strong argument that our client financial institutions are already handling disclosure regarding this issue properly.

Even though there have not been any changes to overdraft regulations, some financial institutions felt political and regulatory pressure to make changes to their overdraft privilege program.  We know that overdraft privilege is a much better service for consumers than returning their items.  Elimination of overdrafts, resulting in more payments being returned, which can lead to repercussions for the consumer such as late payment fees, merchant fees, and potential negative impacts to their credit.

How Strunk clients can properly handle the issue of re-presentment

Strunk has been closely monitoring and sensitive to the issue of re-presentment of declined transactions for the past several years. Strunk provides clients with suggested language for checking account agreements to include enhanced disclosure regarding an arbitration provision as well as a service policy that includes specific language regarding re-presentment. These documents allow Strunk clients to handle disclosure of this issue, and many others, properly.

The suggested language for checking account agreements includes a section on re-presentment of declined transactions which addresses the points regarding disclosure referenced in the FDIC guidance – this was one of the main reasons for including the arbitration clause. Through the use of these materials Strunk clients are already handling disclosure regarding this issue properly.

In addition to disclosure, the other point that should always be stressed with examiners is that an account holder with Overdraft Privilege will essentially NEVER be charged a re-presentment NSF fee because their item will be paid the first time. The only way an ODP customer could be charged for a represented item is if they have already exceeded their overdraft limit – i.e if they have a limit of $800 and their balance is already negative $800 or more, items will begin to be returned.

Strunk clients that require current copies of the ODP service policy or the language for checking account agreements should contact Strunk support at support@strunkaccess.com or visit the Strunk Access portal. Additionally, Strunk offers periodic reviews of client programs, which would include commentary on each of the suggested potential remedies from the FDIC regarding re-presented items. These reviews also consist of solutions to address compliance and to increase service charge income.

Document Retention in ODP Manager

As part of the daily use of the hosted ODP Manager software, users may generate or review documents such as letters or reports. ODP Manager includes features that make it easier for these documents to be retained for future reference.

Each time a user generates a letter, a PDF of the letter is saved and linked to the account’s event history. This makes it easy for letters to be retrieved by customer account or by date and letter type.

The ODP Manager solution allows you to export and save your institution’s reports as Excel or PDF files. The most up-to-date information is always viewable under the Reports section. Users are also able to access reports from the most recent seven As of Dates.

If past reports are retained for additional analysis, there is an alternative to manually exporting and saving copies of reports. If requested, Strunk can set up a Report Archive that includes any of the reports available in ODP Manager. The requested reports will be automatically archived after each import.

Once the Report Archive has been created, PDF files are automatically saved within ODP Manager after each import of the daily extract file. Archived reports are organized by As of Date and retrieved from the Archived Reports section. If your institution would rather download the reports from the archive to save to a network drive instead, a Download Archives link can be set up as an alternative.

Let the document retention features in ODP Manager streamline your ODP letters and report retention! Please contact Strunk Support at support@strunkaccess.com with any questions or to find out more about using these features.

Overdraft Privilege Provides a Solution for Charging Multiple NSF Fees

When a merchant transaction is presented for payment from a consumer account and is refused due to the customer’s insufficient funds to cover the transaction, financial institutions typically charge an NSF fee. When a merchant tries to present the same transaction again in order to recover the denied funds, he or she may be charged a re-presentment NSF fee. If a depository institution receives this type of repeated merchant payment transaction more than once, the depository institution may levy multiple NSF fees. If an Automated Clearing House (ACH) or other item is presented for payment and is denied owing to insufficient funds, certain financial institutions will levy an NSF fee for both the original presentment and each subsequent representation.

In recent class action lawsuits against financial institutions, the removal of key clauses pertaining to the assessment of representation fees was considered to be a violation of contract. Some lawsuits have been settled, with customers receiving refunds and legal fees.  Additionally, state, and federal financial regulators are reviewing DDA agreements searching for potential legal, regulatory and UDAP risks. With these potential risks it is important to review your deposit disclosures and contract language to ensure the way NSF fees are charged is being communicated clearly and consistent to what a consumer could reasonably expect.

This is a great time to make sure that you review your accounts and all of your customers/members that are eligible for Overdraft Privilege should be added to the ODP program unless they have opted out of the program.  By doing this it will minimize your risk for NSF fees being represented, because if your customers/members have an Overdraft limit their items will be considered for payment instead of returned.  Paying the item instead of returning it will ensure that the financial institution minimizes its risk for NSF re-presentments because the item is not returned.  Also, overdraft privilege provides a better service to your customers/members because they will not be faced with potential late fees, retailer fees and damage to their credit from returned items.

Accept Electronic Consent to Opt In for Regulation E

ODP Manager helps you distribute your Consent Form for Overdraft Services to your customers that have not already opted in for Reg E by including the opt in form with Welcome letters, Reinstatement letters, and the Reg E Opt-in Followup letter. This makes it easy for customers that would like to opt in by mail, but there are three other methods for a customer to opt in: in person, by phone, or electronically. The Reg E opt in form will direct your customers to the appropriate mailing address, phone number to call, or to visit a branch, but are you prepared to accept an electronic response?

ODP Manager includes a feature which can assist you in obtaining your customer’s electronic consent to opt in to ODP coverage for ATM and everyday debit card transactions. Strunk can create a Reg E opt in form and Reg E opt out form that mirrors the content in your ODP Manager letters. You would then add links to these forms to your website.

When your customer visits your website and completes either the Consent Form for Overdraft Services or the Consent to Opt-Out, they will receive an email confirmation of their Reg E election. Also, this response will be tracked in ODP Manager and can be emailed to a designated email address at your financial institution.

Your ODP Manager users will review the new responses in ODP Manager, export a list of accounts that need an update to their Reg E election, and perform the appropriate maintenance in your core software – updating the account record to either opt in or opt out the customer’s requested account. By default, the hosted ODP Manager software displays new responses that have not been reviewed and exported. Prior submissions are also retained to allow your users to review previous responses.

If you would like to set up ODP Manager to accept electronic consent to opt in for Overdraft Privilege coverage for ATM and everyday debit card transactions, please contact Strunk Support at support@strunkaccess.com with any questions or to find out more.

The Importance of Employee Training for your Overdraft Program

Does your front-line staff have a biased opinion regarding overdraft privilege and present it in a negative tone?  Is your front-line staff having a hard time explaining overdraft privilege to your customers/members and not really sure what to say to them? If you haven’t had a chance to listen to your employees’ present overdraft privilege to your customers/members, especially Reg. E, Strunk recommends doing it now.  Your staff should explain overdraft privilege and its options to your customers/members in a clear, consistent, compliant, and impartial way.

Sometimes front-line employees do not understand the true benefits overdraft privilege can provide to the customer/member.  Some employees often have a bad perception of overdraft privilege because they associate it with disgruntled or confused account holders. This misunderstanding is one of the main reasons why overdraft privilege training and education are so important!  It is important to provide your employees with a script on how to present overdraft privilege and the benefits of opting into Reg. E. Employees that have practiced and memorized a customer/member-focused overdraft privilege and Reg. E script, ensure that the approach is compliant, succinct, and easy to grasp.

Using the technique of allowing the customer to choose how the financial institution should manage a transaction that would overdraw the customers/members account before the due date ensures their happiness and loyalty.  Strunk’s Overdraft Privilege training will provide a clear understanding of the overdraft program and provide consistent talking points to your employees.  After overdraft privilege training your employees will be equipped with correct and thorough knowledge regarding your program.  Strunk will ensure your employees are equipped with a non-biased, clear and compliant script that provides account holders accurate information so they can make the best decision possible for their situation.  Overdraft privilege training will increase your employees’ confidence as a result of this approach, which will boost their performance, productivity, and level of service to your customers/members.

 

Following Up with Frequent Overdraft Privilege Users

Financial institutions are expected to monitor excessive consumer Overdraft Privilege usage to inform customers of additional available options for overdraft protection. These options could be an Overdraft Protection Credit Line or an Overdraft Protection Transfer from another account with the financial institution.

FDIC regulated institutions are expected to give customers who overdraw their accounts on more than six occasions where a fee is charged in a rolling twelve-month period a reasonable opportunity to choose a less costly alternative and decide whether to continue with fee-based overdraft coverage. Strunk also recommends that institutions not regulated by the FDIC also communicate available alternatives to ODP on an annual basis to accounts with insufficient funds items.

ODP Manager can assist with sending letters advising your customers of the alternatives to Overdraft Privilege. If the ODP Manager import file includes data from the core system that indicates when an account has qualified for the letter by exceeding the threshold, the hosted software can automatically show when a letter is due to be sent. If the data is unable to be added to the extract file but qualifying accounts can be identified from an existing core report or other method, a letter can be generated, as needed, as an Ad Hoc letter.

Once the letter is generated, the letter is tracked and retained within the ODP Manager application.

Please contact Strunk Support at support@strunkaccess.com with any questions or to find out more about using ODP Manager’s Excessive Use Notification letter.

ODP Manager Account History

One major benefit of the hosted ODP Manager software is access to the software’s advanced history tracking. Key account events are tracked in the system and are searchable.

When the daily extract file from the core system is imported into ODP Manager, significant account status changes are tracked. Is the account newly overdrawn or now in good standing? Has an overdraft limit been added to or removed from the account? Has the consumer opted their account in to or out of ATM and everyday debit card transaction coverage according to Regulation E? Has the account been closed? These items are all tracked and retained in each individual account’s history.

When a user generates a collection, custom, or ad hoc letter, not only is the letter type, description, and date recorded, but also a PDF of the letter is saved and linked to the account history and the event history. All letters are stored within the application and can be regenerated at any time.

If a user needs to make further contributions to the account record, a comment or reminder can be created. Notes can be saved to the account as a comment. Reminders can be created for follow-up items with a specific due date. Both comments and reminders are accessible to all users and can include attachments.

Searching for events can be done for an individual account or across a range of dates. Individual account information is easily exported to PDF. Events occurring during a specified timeframe can be filtered and exported to Excel.

Please contact Strunk Support at support@strunkaccess.com with any questions or to find out more about ODP Manager’s advanced event history tracking.

Inform Your Customers About Their Regulation E Opt-In Options

The Consent Form for Overdraft Services (A-9 form) provides your customer with the information they need to know about overdrafts and overdraft fees. In addition to serving as a disclosure of the appropriate information, it also facilitates a customer’s opt-in election by mail. Customers are also able to opt in over the phone, in person, or electronically.

When you include an account’s Reg E Opt-in election in the extract file imported into ODP Manager, ODP Manager can determine whether an account has already opted in or has not yet responded with a Reg E election. This means that your customers will receive the appropriate letter content based on their Regulation E Opt-in choice.

Strunk’s Welcome letter, Reinstatement letter, and Reg E Opt-In Followup letter templates make sure that your customers are aware of their options to opt in and that they know whether they already have the ATM and Everyday Debit Card transactions covered by their Overdraft Privilege limit.

The Welcome and Reinstatement letters sent when a limit is assigned or reinstated can include the Consent Form for Overdraft Services and can inform the customer of other options to opt in: by mail, online, in person, or by phone.

The ODP Manager software can identify which customers have not opted in and have an OD limit, in addition to other criteria. This allows you to communicate with these customers on an ongoing basis to send letters that explain the Reg E opt-in benefits and opt-in methods and that provide a consent form.

Strunk can also facilitate your customer’s online opt-in by creating a Reg E opt-in form and Reg E opt-out form that mirrors the content in your ODP Manager letters. You would then add links to these forms to your website.

Let ODP Manager expand your options to allow your customers to choose Overdraft Privilege coverage for ATM and everyday debit card transactions. Please contact Strunk Support at support@strunkaccess.com with any questions or for more details.

Simple and Efficient Management of the Fresh Start Loan Process using ODP Manager

Fresh Start Loans can help customers resolve their overdrawn account status with up to four payments and can allow them to keep their checking account open. Fresh Start Loans are also a collection tool that can help financial institutions recover and collect on overdrawn accounts that might have otherwise charged off and been closed. Leveraging the tools included in ODP Manager can make managing the Fresh Start Loan process easier and more efficient.

A repayment schedule can be entered for each account with an approved Fresh Start Loan. It will include payment reminders that display when the FSL payment is due to remind your users to check if the payment has been made as agreed. Once verified, FSL payments can also be tracked in ODP Manager.

Instead of needing to create agreements outside of Strunk’s ODP Manager, the Fresh Start Loan Agreement document can be generated directly from the repayment schedule. In addition to generating the agreement from the repayment schedule, users also have an option to generate the agreement as an Ad Hoc letter.

If customers under a repayment schedule do not pay their Fresh Start Loan payments as agreed, the default close letter can be generated and tracked in ODP Manager as well. If any other Fresh Start Loan letters are needed for accounts in a repayment status, an Ad Hoc letter template can be created. By entering the deposit account number, ODP Manager will pre-fill the account information. After the letter is generated, it will be tracked and retained in ODP Manager just like the other Collection and Custom letters.

ODP Manager includes a report that lists all accounts currently under a Fresh Start Loan status. If details are needed about current repayment schedules, a Repayment Schedule summary report can also be exported to PDF or Excel.

Please contact Strunk Support at support@strunkaccess.com with any questions or for more details.