Charged With an Overdraft Fee? Get Your Money Back!

by Darren Wu on 19 June 2013 14 comments

Picture this: You login to your checking account to review your transactions — and BAM!

You've been hit with a $35 overdraft fee. Your account has a negative balance, and it's showing in bold red font. (See also: Banks Can Manipulate Your Transactions, Then Charge You 1750% Overdraft Fee)

What do you do now?

Two things: Get your money back, and make sure it never happens again.

I'll show you how to do both. Let's start with getting your money back.

Getting Your Overdraft Fee Refunded

Banks spend lots of money trying to earn your business. Your deposits are used to lend money to other customers, in products such as a mortgages or business loans. They profit by charging interest and end up pocketing millions of dollars.

So once they get you as a customer, the last thing they want to do is lose your business. You mean a lot to them.

Knowing this, you're now in a position of power — negotiating power.

To get your overdraft fee refunded, just call customer service and ask for the fee to be removed. Be polite, but firm.

Tell the representative what you want, and why it's in their best interest to give you what you want.

Don't get angry, but be persistent. If you've been a responsible customer, you'll get the waiver sooner or later.

If you need more guidance, follow this simple script on negotiating out of bank fees. Trust me; it works. I know, because I've used it myself!

It'll be the quickest, easiest $35 you'll ever save.

Yet you should only need to do this once. Because after you get your money back, you'll move on to the next step.

Make Sure It Never Happens Again

Once you get your money refunded, you should set up your finances so that overdraft fees will be a thing of the past for you. Here's how.

Put Your Bills on Your Card

First, charge everything you can to your credit card. This includes routine expenses such as your cable, internet, and cell phone bills, plus other stuff such as eating out, groceries, and gas purchases.

By putting these charges on your card, overdraft fees will no longer be an issue.

Why?

Because you can set up automatic payments to be sent from your checking account to your credit card before your bill's due date, so that you don't get hit with a late fee. Better yet, since you're charging purchases to the card that you'd normally make anyway, you'll get more bonus points or cash back.

But what about other bills that can't be charged to your credit card? Some expenses must be paid directly from your checking account. These can include your monthly electricity and gas bills, your rent or mortgage, and other expenses such as DMV fees.

Plan and Manage Your Expenses

Here's how to manage both your credit card and non-credit expenses.

Since many of us get paid twice a month, the first thing to do is to wait for your second payday of the month.

Let's say you get paid at the end of May. Your credit card bill will likely be due in the beginning of June, for purchases you made in the April and May timeframe.

Knowing this, just perform this simple calculation — since your paycheck goes into your checking account, enter your checking account balance first. Then subtract your upcoming credit card balance that you'll be fully paying off. After that, subtract the upcoming expenses that can't be charged on your card.

Lastly — and most importantly — leave $200 as a buffer in case unexpected expenses pop up before your next pay period. Then you're free to do whatever you want with the money that remains — save it, invest it, or splurge with it (okay, don't splurge with it).

That's it. Once you set up this process, maintaining it will be easy, like second nature, and you'll never have to worry about getting hit with an overdraft fee again.

Have you ever been socked with an overdraft fee? Did you fight it and win? Tell us about it in comments!

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Guest's picture

This advice is great. It also works with late fees. If you inadvertently pay a bill late, just call your credit card company and be polite but firm. They will usually credit you any fees. They want to keep your business.

These overdraft fees have a very interesting history of their own: http://studentloansherpa.com/scam-alert-overdraft-protection/

Darren Wu's picture

Thanks Michael! And you're right about using this for late fees too!

Guest's picture

I hate overdraft fees! I have called and asked to have mine waived before and it does work. But it is a lot easier if you set up your bank account to not allow overdrafts in the first place and you can avoid the stress and annoyance that comes when you see that charge in your account.

Darren Wu's picture

Good point Mary. Leaving a cash cushion in your checking account will help avoid overdrafts.

Guest's picture

My bank has specific policies on what fees they will refund and how many overdrafts you can get refunded during a time period. Since I have a knack for financial blunders I have learned their policy well and take full advantage of it.

You should always call your bank right away when they charge any type of fee. Not only overdraft fees but even monthly service charges and other fees might be able to be refunded. I have a checking account that has a monthly fee, and if I don't use the account for the month I give them a call and see if I can get it refunded. More often than not they refund it just to make sure I keep my account open.

Darren Wu's picture

Thanks for sharing your experience Levi.

Guest's picture
Guest

Here's some advice from someone who's been in banking for 5 years. Getting one fee refunded is easy. Getting more than one refunded is not. Where I work, it's policy that everybody gets one "freebie" per year, as long as it wasn't a bank error. Getting anything else refunded is manager discretion. I definitely agree that you should be police and not get angry, but no matter how nice you are, you will not likely get more than 2 fees refunded. The reasoning is this: When you open a bank account, you get disclosures stating how much fees are and how you can incur them. When it happens once, it's usually and accident and we understand that. When it happens multiple times a day on a regular basis, that's just poor money management and that is NOT the bank's fault. Nobody is perfect, but ledgers exist for a reason. Another easy way to avoid overdraft fees in the first place: avoid cash advance loans unless it's a matter of life or death. They are AWFUL and they will ruin your account! :)

Darren Wu's picture

Thanks for sharing about the "freebie" policy. Leaving a buffer of a few hundred dollars in your checking account should solve the overdraft issue from occuring in the future.

Guest's picture
James

Many banks also have overdraft protection. It is just a credit account that can be automatically used to cover overdrafts. Never rely on it for credit, and pay it off immediately after any overdraft, and your interest cost will be negligible. It will show up as another credit source on your credit report if that matters to you.

Darren Wu's picture
Darren Wu

Thanks James. Some bank accounts - although they may be few - also provide free overdraft protection.

Guest's picture

If you keep a $1000 float in your checking, you won't ever have overdraft fees. You shouldn't be having to micromanage your checking account just to keep from getting overdrafts!

Darren Wu's picture
Darren Wu

Thanks for the comment Jenny. In my opinion, $1,000 is a lot. But if that makes you feel more comfortable, then go ahead!

Guest's picture
christine

Does this work with getting money back for doing too many withdraws or things like that? This recently happened to me but this makes me want to ask for my money back. Is it too late also it has been a month or two?

Darren Wu's picture
Darren Wu

Hi Christine,

It may be challenging if you've had several overdraft fees within a short time frame. But if one of the fees was charged just a month ago, you should be able to get your money back.

Good luck!