02/26/2012 - The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is starting a much-needed examination of the overdraft fees that banks charge customers who spend more on debit cards than they have in their accounts. The bureau is collecting data on how banks assess overdrafts and the effect of high fees on low-income customers, and says it will issue a reform plan later this year. But it is already clear that banks need to provide uniform, straightforward fee-disclosure documents that allow consumers to protect themselves from surprise charges.
The typical overdraft fee averages between $30 and $35 and has risen by about 17 percent over the last five years. According to Moebs Services, a research company that has conducted studies for both the government and some banks, banks earned nearly $30 billion from these fees last year and have pushed up charges to improve that haul. This means particular trouble for the 10 percent of customers, mainly low-income, who pay about 90 percent of these fees.
Read the full editorial, A Further Look at Overdraft Fees, on the New York Times' Web site.