No overdraft fees may sound consumer-friendly — until you realize that people will still overdraw their accounts and need a way to meet short-term liquidity deficits.
For some consumers, it means their transactions will not be paid and it could set them back even further because of late fees and other penalties. It also makes it harder for community financial institutions to fulfill their mission to serve their account holders and help them achieve financial health.
There are many drawbacks to taking away overdrafts — it’s a service that nearly 9 in 10 consumers find valuable. Plus, it presents a step back for consumers and barriers for financial institutions as they try to provide low-cost banking options for all.
Without the safety net of overdraft privilege available from their community bank or credit union, consumers must find alternate ways to pay for bills or emergency expenses. This can turn into a crisis quickly, given that we’re experiencing one of the most difficult financial times in the nation’s history.
Meanwhile, consumers still face consequences for unpaid bills, including high late fees and lowered credit scores. In fact, just one late mortgage payment can drop a credit score by 90 points or more, and the late payment stays on their credit history for years.
Taking away access to overdraft services makes it even more difficult for consumers to make payments on time and keep their financial lives on track. Perhaps that’s why 72% of consumers who have paid an overdraft fee in the past year were glad their bank covered their payment, rather than returned or declined.
Without providing multiple overdraft options, banks and credit unions miss the opportunity to meet the service needs of their account holders in a number of ways.
Taking overdrafts away from account holders is not the “consumer-friendly solution” it’s been made out to be lately in the media. Cash shortages and emergency bills will not go away, it is a service that many people see as valuable, convenient, and in some instances, necessary.
Many community banks and credit unions already offer such a solution, accompanied by financial education and counseling, which their account holders appreciate. More than 60% of consumers think it’s reasonable to be charged an overdraft fee, and 74% view these fees as reasonable when large payments like mortgages or rent payments are covered and paid on time. It is not a matter of eliminating the service; it’s about making sure it continues to evolve and adequately meet the needs of today’s consumers.
To remain both fair and competitive, financial institutions can take a number of steps to ensure their overdraft program meets modern consumer needs and industry best practices. This includes conducting a full examination and analysis of their:
A transparent overdraft service that empowers consumers should be just one of several options in a broad menu of services available to account holders. For many account holders, it’s a lifeline they can count on and use responsibly if the need arises, without embarrassment or other unpleasantries.
Contact the experts at JMFA today for a free analysis and specialized recommendations.
Download our whitepaper Does your overdraft program check all the boxes of a consumer-friendly service?
Mark Roe has more than 30 years of industry experience leading all JMFA sales efforts and strategic initiatives leading to long-term stability for community banks and credit unions. He joined JMFA as a consultant, providing operational guidance for improved performance on various projects supporting community banks and credit unions. He later transitioned to the sales team as Regional Director of Sales for the Northeast market before being named EVP of National Sales.