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Overdraft fees soared to $32 billion in 2012

Written by ecannon - 5 Comments

Overdraft fees soared to $32 billion in 2012

This post, written by Anthony Fontana, is from out partner site QuickenLoans.com.

Nobody likes wasting money, do they? Actually, according to a news report from Moebs Services, banks, credit unions and thrift institutions made $32 billion on overdraft fees in 2012. That’s right, $32,000,000,000! That’s a lot of zeros.

The 2012 numbers represent an increase of $400 million, or 1.3 percent from 2011. If you think last year’s number is staggering, it still falls short of the record $37 billion in fees set in 2009. However, at its current rate, Moebs predicts a new record-high will be set at the end of 2016.

So, if you break down the population, how much did the average American pay? Well, considering there are approximately 330 million Americans, the average American paid about $100 in overdraft fees in 2012. If you break down the population by age, keep in mind that roughly 100 million Americans are outside the legal working age and are unlikely to contribute to the statistic. This means that the average working-age population paid close to $400 a year in overdraft fees.

Perhaps what’s even more unsettling is the rise in overdraft spending isn’t due to an increase in the price of the fee. Instead, it’s resulted from a greater number of overdrafts. Of the approximately 38 million people who have a consumer checking account, the Moebs study found that the median overdraft is about $40.

Apparently people really do like wasting money. If you fall into the category of someone who has been charged an overdraft fee, there are ways to ensure it doesn’t happen again. You can start by checking your account statement on a regular basis. In today’s world of smartphones, this task can be done in a matter of seconds without a trip to the bank or an ATM.

There are many ways to overdraft your account. The most common way is to withdraw more money from your account than you have. You can opt in for overdraft protection, which will allow you to withdraw the money and then pay a fee later on. If you decide against opting in for overdraft protection, your transaction will be denied.

While overdraft protection can be useful in some cases, a recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that 54 percent of the customers who had overdrawn their accounts did not realize they had signed up for a service that cost money. Do you fall into this category?

Be sure to check with your bank about overdraft penalties and if you are signed up for overdraft protection. Do you think overdraft protection is worth paying the hefty fee? Let us know in the comments below!

Additional stories from QuickenLoans.com

Mortgage Missteps: Not Checking Your Credit

Mortgage Missteps: Opening (or Closing) a Line of Credit

Summer Jobs for College Students


Published on May 17th, 2013
Modified on May 29th, 2013 - 5 Comments
Filed under: Banking

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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5 Responses to “Overdraft fees soared to $32 billion in 2012”

  1. 1
    Chris Says:

    I have overdraft protection from my credit union, which is a FREE service (if you just have it tied to another account). This is one many reasons that I LOVE my credit union–good ole PSECU.

    I keep a pretty close eye on my checking balance, so I generally see if it is getting too low, and can remedy the situation with a transfer. You just have to have the funds to do so. I have had overdrafts a couple of times over the years, so the service has been handy.

  2. 2
    getagrip Says:

    My child in college got caught by this last year. They moved $75 from their online bank account to another bank where they had their checking account and debit card and $10 dollars left in the debit account (which isn’t set up for them to check on-line). They verified the money was sent online and figured they had $85 in their debit account. They used the debit card a day later for $12 lunch and spent $10 on groceries, and $18 on a haircut the next day.

    The online bank sent the money and posted it as sent, but the recieving bank with the debit card account initially refused it and kicked it back. Apparently there was a glitch in the software being used by the online bank. A day later they noticed the glitch, fixed it, and resent the funds. Results on Debit account:

    $10 in account (based on refusal of initial transfer)-$12 lunch caused a $2 overdraft, which triggered their $35 overdraft fee for $37 now owed. The $10 in groceries came next, but since there was still no money in the account the bank tacked on another $35 fee, so now the total owed becomes $37+10+35=$82. The $75 finally transfers, but the recieving bank immediately takes that from the $82 owed, so the account is still in the hole $7. Then the haircut for $18, and another fee for $35, so they are in the hole for $7+18+35=$60.

    At this point my child checks their account and instead of having $45 dollars available, they are $60 in the hole and have been charged $105 in fees. The bank with the debit account said it wasn’t their fault, but “generously” agreed to waive the first $35 fee. The bank that failed to transfer refused to admit to fault because they “speedily” corrected it and my kid should have verified that the receiving account actually had received the money.

    This is many banks *overdraft protection* which should really be sold as *overdraft fee money maker*. You can keep charging, without having your card denied, but they hit you with a “minimal” fee each and every time and take the fee money first. For college kids, people without a lot of money, those living paycheck to paycheck, this is the kind of thing that happens and snowballs their debt even when it isn’t really their fault.

    We’ve opted out of overdraft protection switched banks to having all accounts viewable online based on this, but are still out the “fees”.

  3. 3
    philip Says:

    I have probably paid about 20 cents in overdraft fees last year, but that was with ING on the interest for your overdraft and I knowingly did it instead of getting cash out or transferring at the time, figured it was worth the few cents to fix it the next day. If they charge a high fee I certainly would manage the account differently.

  4. 4
    Anton Ivanov | Dreams Cash True Says:

    Absolutely ridiculous statistics! I don’t remember ever paying an overdraft fee on any of my accounts ever! If you check your accounts balances regularly and maintain a small spending cushion, this should never happen.

  5. 5
    zimmy@moneyandpotatoes.com Says:

    Wow! we are paying almost $100 in overdraft fees for every single man, woman and child in America. That is a lot of money. I haven’t had the pleasure of paying an overdraft fee for a couple of years and it was with a credit union and the fee was very low. I guess some people are paying several of these a year.

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