Overdraft fees from debit cards can devastate a personal checking account. Most consumers avoid this problem, but it has become harder to avoid in recent months. As banks struggle to find increased profits during a time of heavy regulation, they’ve reacted by adjusted policies and raising penalty fees.

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As a recent New York Times article pointed out, banks are making millions of dollars by charging their customers large overdraft fees.

“Consumers who overdraw often do not realize that overdraft coverage is automatic and that the bank will not simply cut them off when their balance hits zero. Many banks then refuse to turn off the coverage, even when a consumer calls to request a change.”

There are steps you can take to protect yourself. They include knowing your bank’s overdraft policies, opting into the right protection, and also considering debit card alternatives.

Know Your Bank’s Policy

Make sure that you are clear on your banks policy regarding transactions that may overdraw your account.  Most banks offer over draft protection that can either be drawn from a savings account or a credit card.  Also, ask your bank if they can protect you from overdrawing your account by not allowing your purchases to go over your balance.

Consider Prepaid Debit Cards

In this age of instant transactions, a debit card becomes a necessity.  When you do not want to carry around a load of cash, but need access to the cash, a debit card is the perfect solution.  However, in instances when the debit card connects to a checking account, you run the risk of overspending.

One alternative method to avoiding overdraft fees is to use a Prepaid debit card. There are many locations that provide prepaid debit cards, including cash advance stores like ACE Cash Express. Prepaid debit cards can be auto-loaded and do not have any overdraft fees. They can also be used to help you stay within your budget.

Talk to a Bank Manager

Overdraft fees can happen, but you do have options.  If you choose to dispute the overdraft fees, do not call customer service.  Take a deep breath, and go visit your local branch.  You will want to make sure that your overdraft fees have posted to your account.  Most banks cannot do anything for you until everything is posted.  Set up an appointment with the bank manager, and calmly explain your situation.  If your reason is valid, they may be able to help you out. This could include reversing one to two of the fees or completely reversing all of them.

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