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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.