TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Tess Vigeland: Starting Thursday, if you open a new bank account, you’ll be asked a new question: Do you want the option of spending money you do not have? That’s what overdraft protection is. Most customers have always had that option — even if they didn’t know it. They’d find out when a bank statement came with a $40 overdraft fee for the $4 coffee they bought with a debit card. That’s about to change, thanks to new rules from the Federal Reserve. Greg McBride of Bankrate.com explains.
Greg McBride: If you’re going to overdraw your account, either with an ATM transaction or a point of sale debit card purchase, your financial institution has to have your consent in order to process that transaction and assess you with the overdraft fee. If you don’t consent, then that transaction will be denied and you’ll have to either walk away or resort to another payment method.
Vigeland: So for new customers, the choice comes July first.
Existing bank customers will get a note in August asking if they want to opt-in to overdraft coverage.
McBride: Putting that choice in the hands of the consumer where it belongs removes this concept of the gotcha fee where somebody slides their debit card, doesn’t realize their balance is as low as it is and ends up paying a $35 fee as a result.
Vigeland: Of course there is another cure for all the rage incited by overdraft fees: Keep track of your account balances. But if you want the extra net, the banks are more than happy to provide it.
McBride: There’s really not a need to opt in because chances are even if you do overdraw your account, you have other payment options available. Nobody is really going to want to pay a $35 fee whenever they are buying a value meal at lunchtime. But if you are a few hundred miles from home and your car breaks down, you want to know you have another way to payment options or you want that overdraft protection on that debit card purchase.
Vigeland: Of course, most of us will end up paying more anyway because banks can no longer count on those overdraft fees. McBride says free checking accounts and other perks will be harder to come by.
McBride: So consumers are very likely to see higher balance requirements, monthly fees being instituted on accounts that were formerly free. But don’t take it sitting down. Be proactive. Shop around. Smaller community banks, credit unions and online banks, will still be fertile ground for free checking accounts.
Vigeland: Greg McBride of Bankrate.com
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