U.S. Bank plans to restructure some of its fees this year. In the initial stage, customers will face a slightly higher overdraft fee — requiring greater diligence when managing their spending to avoid a negative balance.

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Starting June 29, 2012, the fee for an overdraft item of $15 or less is $15; for an overdraft item greater than $15, the fee is $35 per occurrence. Currently, U.S Bank charges $10 per overdraft item that is $20 or less and $33 per overdraft item that is greater than $20. (See the current overdraft fees at the top 10 U.S. banks.)

“This change is part of an overall review of our deposit fees which will include the elimination of other fees such as early account closure fees on checking, savings and IRAs, as well as a reduced and simplified stop payment fee,” said Teri Charest, a U.S. Bank spokesperson, in an email.

“If our customers choose to have overdraft protection on their accounts, we offer fair and transparent pricing, and a lower overdraft/non-sufficient funds fee than the vast majority of our competitors. We are the only bank that offers a lower fee for overdrafts caused by a small dollar transaction and we waive the fee if the account is overdrawn less than $10.”

On a $50 overdraft item, the average overdraft fee is currently $33.70 at the 10 largest banks in the country. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, TD Bank, Capital One and BB&T charge a flat $35 overdraft fee. U.S. Bank is the fifth-largest bank with 17.4 million customers and $231 billion in deposits.

Also, U.S. Bank sets a maximum of three overdraft items paid and three overdraft items returned, a total of six overdrafts, per day.

“We offer effective tools to help customers track their balances, with email and mobile balance alerts, and we make it easy to transfer funds from a savings or other account to avoid encountering a negative balance,” Chaset added.

Other changes to fees will be rolled out later this year.

Overdrafts return to the spotlight

In August 2010, new laws required banks to obtain customer consent to process a debit transaction or ATM withdrawal that will result in a balance below $0 — and an overdraft fee. Without an opt-in, the transaction is denied and there is no overdraft fee.

The impact to the banking industry’s bottom line is apparent. Last year, financial institutions generated $31.6 billion in overdraft fee revenue, down from $33.1 billion in 2010 (a 4.5 percent drop), according to financial-research firm Moebs Service.

Still, lawmakers and consumer advocates are not satisfied with the current state of overdraft policies.

Last week, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) proposed a new bill, called the Overdraft Protection Act, to further regulate overdraft policies. The bill calls for fair overdraft fee pricing, limits to the number of overdraft charges and a ban on transaction manipulation to maximize the potential of fees.

These provisions encompass the recommendations resulting from a recent consumer study by Pew’s Safe Checking in the Electronic Age Project, which aims to restore transparency and fairness to checking accounts.

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