CNN reported this morning on how the banks have been increasingly out of control when it comes to these fees. It is one thing to charge people for overspending on their debit cards at a point-of-purchase transaction; but banks had even begun to let customers unknowingly overdraft in their ATM transactions, rather than informing them they had insufficient funds.
Around this time last year I wrote about how debilitating these fines can be when you’re just trying to make ends meet. (Read Customer Dissatisfaction with BBVA Compass Bank). Naturally, a bunch of bankers and other privileged individuals freaked out and bashed the poor in the comments section. I can only imagine the tantrums they’re throwing today.
Starting this month, banks are no longer allowed to charge overdraft fees without your permission!
But don’t get too excited. The key phrase here is “without your permission” and experience tells me banks will find creative new ways to claim they have that. It’s really a simple process: bury the relevant info and make it hard to interpret; then make the process of opting out even harder.
Here’s how it will probably happen. Your bank will send you a letter or packet in the coming months regarding a “change in policy.” Legally, they may also have to change the name from “overdraft fees,” something that sounds like a perk–something like “automated loan approval.”
Bare in mind they are really sneaky about how they set up these letters.
So the first several paragraphs are deliberately trivial and boring, so that you’ll falsely assume the info is unimportant and stop reading. All the stuff in bold or caps will either be irrelevant, obvious, or misleading. The truly relevant information (i.e., the purpose of their sending you the letter in the first place) will be hidden somewhere on page 4, in a font-size so small you may need a magnifying glass to read it.
That’s where they’ll insert something like:
Effective August 1, 2010: For your convenience, (your bank’s name here) now offers automated loan approval. To save you the time and hassle of requesting loans and waiting for approval, all loans under $250.00 are now automatically approved via our new automated system. As our valued customer, you automatically qualify and have been pre-approved to start using this service. Beginning August 1, simply use your debit card as you normally would, and any transaction not covered by the funds in your account will be an automatically approved loan request. A flat interest rate of $38.00 per transaction will then be deducted from your next deposit. If for some reason, you don’t wish to take advantage of this fine policy, please call our national office at 1-800-WEF-UCKU during our regular business hours (Tuesday-Thursday, 10:00AM-2:00PM) to set up a face-to-face appointment with one of our trained customer service representative in Delaware.
Other new laws that take effect this month:
- No more text messaging while driving. In states like Georgia you can now be fined $150 if caught text messaging while in your car–even if you are at a red light!
- New increased sales tax at tanning salons. This is part of the new health care reform plan.
- No more minimum poker buy-ins in the state of Florida. Florida is trying to attract major tournaments, so the $100 minimum was waived.