The much-discussed overdraft opt-in rules settled upon by the Federal Reserve last year are finally in effect as of Monday.
If you’re opening a new checking account at a bank, it can no longer automatically enroll you in overdraft protection plans. If you already have an active account, your bank should have reached out to you to give you the chance to opt-out or remain enrolled in your current plan.
Overdraft protection plans come with pros and cons. They serve a definite purpose, giving you the flexibility to make purchases that overdraft your account or withdraw from the ATM more money than you actually have. The cons are substantial too: The average overdraft penalty fee is $27, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Using an overdraft protection plan allows you to make any purchase you want and saves you some embarrassment, but it comes with a potentially hefty price tag.
Over the past few weeks, banks have pushed hard on the advertising front in an effort to convince customers to opt-in. This is a big deal for banks — they have generated in recent years about $20 billion per year from the fees. It’s hard to tell if the banks’ ad blitz is working. In a recent National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 26% of Americans said they would prefer to opt out of the fees.
Some banks have proposed alternatives to overdraft protection plans. Most notably, online bank ING DIRECT offers an “overdraft line of credit” that includes a small penalty interest rate.
We asked some everyday banking customers what they thought about the new overdraft opt-in rules: