Normally I laugh in the face of irony. One of my favorite time-wasting websites is Friends of Irony. But when it happens to me, it isn’t so funny.
Saturday morning Fred and I were watching a news program about the new law concerning overdraft protection at banks. Beginning July 15, banks must have an account holder’s approval to charge overdraft fees if the account is overdrawn. Fred and I had opposite views on overdraft protection.
“It’s a huge fee that’s being charge,” Fred said. “If I don’t have the money, I want my card to be denied. I’ll use my credit card if it’s an emergency. Otherwise, whatever it is I’m trying to buy, I don’t need it.”
I could see his point. “But if I’ve written a rent check and I don’t have sufficient funds, I want the bank to cover it,” I said. “If I bounce a rent check, which I’ve never done, then I have to pay my apartment office a fee and then pay my rent every month with a cashier’s check, which involves a fee with each time. In that respect, it’s worth the one-time overdraft fee.”
Fred thought of a good in-between solution. “The technology is probably out there that if you run your debit card and there aren’t sufficient funds, you can opt in or out for overdraft protection for just that transaction.”
It sounded reasonable to me but I wondered how that could be done with rent checks. Either it bounces or it doesn’t. The rental office probably wouldn’t come to me and say, “Sorry, the check’s no good. Do you want us to go ahead and put it through, though?” Fred does all his bill payment online so this concept of paying by paper check is absurd to him. I could pay online but I prefer not to. Plus, this doesn’t account for all the people who don’t have secure (or any) internet availability. The system still needs to work for them.
We discussed the topic in greater detail and we both had valid points. For me it was worth opting in because I rarely overdraw my account. The times that I did was because I was not careful with my money and it was my own fault. I accepted the fees (but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t upset about it; I was just mad at myself). The guy on the news piece, however, said that the average American overdraws his account 3 times a month, racking up a huge amount of fees (or as he called them, high interest loans). Three times a month? Yikes! Those people definitely have no concept of financial planning.
When I returned to my apartment Sunday, I grabbed the mail from the weekend. In it was an envelope from my bank. I figured it was probably a letter about this new law and hat it would encourage me to opt in. I dismissed it until Monday morning. When I finally read it, I saw that I was way off base. It was actually a letter to let me know I had overdrawn my account, not once but 4 times and I had $100 worth of fees.
I was not happy.
I looked over their math and then checked my online statement. According to my online statement, I was never in the red. Not only did I have enough to cover everything I’d purchased, but I had enough money for the fees and then more money left over. WTF?
It was too early to go storming into the bank so I got ready by getting together my case. I printed my online statement and highlighted the deposit I made that should have come through on Saturday (not Tuesday as it had). Then I grabbed my bank file and looked through 8 years’ worth of statements and wrote down every overdraft fee I’d ever incurred. I had a total of 5. I’d say that’s pretty damn good.
When the bank opened their doors, I was right there waiting. I sat down with a young lady and explained my case. She listened and then typed some things into her computer. She reversed the fees and then explained that deposits made after hours on Friday (when I’d done it) did not show up until Monday. Deposits didn’t show up Saturday, as I thought it would, because Saturday was not considered a business day. Nothing came through until Tuesday because Monday was a holiday and the bank was closed.
When all was said and done, I still opted in for overdraft protection. Except for this incident, the few times I used it, I rightly deserved the fees. You can bet, though, that I’ll be even more vigilant with my money than I was before.