Ally Bank has recently made headlines announcing that it would no longer charge its customers overdraft fees. Ally is a popular online bank that offers one type of checking account and overdraft fees only accounted for less than .07% of Ally’s revenue in 2020. Ally Bank typically excludes consumers that use overdraft protection to begin with; of their 2.5 million banking clients, only about 1% have been subject to overdraft charges in the past.
When a financial institution decides to eliminate overdraft protection to their account holders, how does that really affect the consumer? First, if the account holder writes a check for more than they have in their checking account then that check gets declined (the check bounces) and sent back to the payee who tried to cash the check. Once the check is returned, the account holder is charged an NSF fee and most likely charged a return fee from the payee or the merchant. After a check is returned, the payee or merchant might try to re-deposit/re-present the check to see if the customer has the funds available. If the account holder does not have the funds available then they are charged another fee. Without overdraft protection these types of transactions can be very expensive because the consumer will have to pay an NSF fee, return fee and most likely re-presentment fee as well. Also, the account holder will be inconvenienced because the check did not clear, meaning the payee has still not been paid. Ultimately, the consumer will have to deal with the embarrassment of having their item returned. Secondly, if an account holder doesn’t have overdraft protection on their account then that account holder is not allowed to have their debit card covered under an overdraft program. Most consumers enjoy the convenience of having their debit card approved for a transaction that may overdraw their account rather than having those transactions declined.
After reviewing banks that are offering no overdraft fees accounts, Strunk has found that most of these banks are just setting up automatic transfer from another account or a line of credit to cover the overdraft items. Also, if a bank is offering no overdraft fees there are some restrictions you may need to consider on the account. Some of the restrictions to the account could be that the account doesn’t offer checks. The bank may impose higher minimum balances or direct deposit requirements to reduce the occurrence of a transaction being declined, and if the account holder does not have the required daily balance or required monthly deposit amount then there is usually a monthly maintenance fee on the account. Strunk recommends that your organization consider all of these situations when evaluating an account type without overdraft protection.