No one intends to overdraw their account. Overdraft fees are usually the result of an honest mistake. Unfortunately though, most banks charge a penalty when your account balance drops below zero. While fees vary between institutions, the average amount is just over $33. This fee can increase rapidly as well if your bank chooses to charge the penalty multiple times in a single day. When the fees keep piling up, it can feel as if you are getting buried in red tape and repeatedly being punished for the same mistake. The good news is that you can fight the overdraft fees to get them reduced or even waived. You just simply need to ask for it.
Fight the Overdraft Fees
In most cases, fighting overdraft fees is much less confrontational than it sounds. All it typically requires is a call to your bank’s customer service line. Before you make the call, get all the personal information you will need to verify your account. This will streamline the entire process, and get you off the phone as quickly as possible.
1. Politely ask to remove the overdraft fees.
Once you reach a customer service representative, it’s time to make your case. Be polite, but clearly explain that you want the charge removed. If you are uncertain how to ask, keep it short and sweet. For example, “I noticed overdraft fees on my account and I would like to have them waived,” or “I have an overdraft fee on my account. Can you help me get this removed?”
If this is a first-time occurrence, most customer service representatives will waive it for you without any problems. However, they may warn you that they only offer the courtesy a limited number of times, so don’t expect it to be waived every time your account shows an overdraft fee.
2. Prepare a rebuttal.
On the other hand, if the agent says they can’t remove the fee, calmly explain why they should. If you have been a loyal customer over the years, make sure to remind them. Most banks prefer to waive a $35 fee than lose an account, so you can use this as leverage. Furthermore, if it rarely happens, point that out to the agent as well. Lastly, if the overdraft fee is the result of processing time on a transaction or an extenuating circumstance, explain your situation. Since many of us have been experiencing financial difficulties this past year during the pandemic, banks are more lenient and prone to waive minor fees.
3. Ask to speak with a supervisor.
If a customer service representative insists that they cannot waive the fee, the next move is to ask for their supervisor. Many agents don’t want to be vindictive. The resistance to waiving fees is usually because agents get penalized if they remove too many. So, if you ask to speak with someone with more authority, they may be able to take care of it for you. The key to success when you fight overdraft fees is to find the right person who can help you.
4. Try, try again.
Sometimes you meet a brick wall when dealing with automated systems and customer service lines. If your first attempt is unsuccessful, you can always hang up and try again. You might have better luck the second time around and reach someone who is more willing to honor your request. The other option is to visit your local branch and speak to someone in person. Face-to-face interactions tend to be more successful for me since I can better express myself and explain my situation.
Opt-Out of Overdraft Protection
Did you know that you can avoid overdraft fees entirely? Most banks will not tell you this, but you have the right to opt-out of the service and never have to fight overdraft fees again. Instead of allowing transactions that would put your account into the negative, the bank will decline them. If you are among those who would rather see their card declined than pay penalties, call and ask your bank to turn off the overdraft protection feature.
Be sure to read the fine print though if you go this route. Some banks will charge an NSF fee for the rejected transactions. This puts you right back where you started. You should also be aware that opting out of overdraft protection only works for one-time purchases. If you have specific questions about your bank’s policies, you can find the information online or call a customer service representative to assist.
Use Online Banking to Avoid Overdraft Fees
Online banking and mobile apps make it even easier to avoid overdraft fees. Since nearly every bank offers it these days, you can easily access your accounts and check your balances. It is especially handy when you know your account is getting low and you’re uncertain if a charge will incur the fee. Just log in and see how much is in your account before you use the card.
Another way online banking can help you avoid fees is by setting up alerts. When your funds are low, you will receive notifications to prevent overdraft fees. This feature is particularly helpful for those who are afraid to see their account balances. The alerts spare you the anxiety of checking yourself by sending automated responses.
Important Things to Remember When You Fight Overdraft Fees
The difference between success and failure comes down to how you present yourself. Here are few tips to help you fight overdraft fees the next time you need to call the customer service line.
- Remain polite. Although you are frustrated, remember it is not the customer service agent’s fault. It is simply their job to answer the phone and assist you. People are generally more willing to help you if you remain calm and polite.
- Be firm and persistent. Most banks will not want to refund fees. However, be persistent and prepared to meet their objections. State your reasons, and point out the value of your continued support. If they still refuse to help you, don’t be afraid to ask for a supervisor.
- Don’t let them have the chance to say no. Avoid asking yes/no questions and giving the agent the opportunity to deny your request. Instead ask questions like, “What can you do for me?” It gives limited options and assumes they are going to find a solution for your problem.
- Be ready to accept ‘no’ as an answer. Sometimes, the answer will still be the same no matter how many times you ask. If you have a history of calling to waive fees, they will be less likely to do so in the future. If you made your case to fight overdraft fees and the bank still refuses to waive the fees, there isn’t much more you can do.
Most customer service representatives understand that you are human and make mistakes. They will usually assist you with reasonable requests. But remember, if you never ask, then you will never get what you want.
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.