How to Never Pay Another Checking Account Overdraft Fee Again

checking account overdraft fees

On a hectic, errand-running weekend, it’s easy to lose track of checking account transactions along the way. But racking up overdraft fees is an easy way to dig yourself deeper into the red, especially if you’re living paycheck to paycheck.

Moebs Services, a financial research firm, found that the first six months of 2012 saw a 2.1 percent rise in overdraft fee revenue for banks. In the first half of the year, financial institutions drew in $31.5 billion — a considerable increase from $30.8 billion in June 2011.

Despite bank regulation changes in 2010, which prevented banks from automatically enrolling customers in overdraft protection programs, you can still be slapped with overdraft fees if you’ve opted in to your bank’s overdraft service or have written a check with insufficient funds in a checking account.

Whether the overdraft charge was an innocent oversight or timing on an electronic transfer just wasn’t on your side that day, you can save yourself considerable cash if you learn how to get overdraft fees waived.

Related: 6 Sneaky Bank Fees and How to Avoid Them

How to Get Overdraft Fees Waived

Not many depositors stop to contest overdraft fees, since they’re usually the ones at fault. However, even if the blame can be solely placed on your shoulders, you don’t have to suffer from these costly fees.

Wouldn’t you rather use overdraft fees toward a movie night with friends, or to buy groceries for the week? The fact is that overdraft fees are a huge blow to your finances. Luckily, by knowing how to get overdraft fees waived with the right approach (even if you were in the wrong) you can relieve yourself of this financial burden.

1. Remain Polite and Patient

Even if your request to have an overdraft fee waived is initially shot down, don’t lose your head. Regardless of the barricades your bank representative puts up to deny your request for a waiver, press on with kindness. No one wants to deal with an irate customer who’s yelling; talk it out with the associate and remain pleasant throughout the entire exchange.

Los Angeles resident, Jaime Catmull, was shocked when she found she’d been charged several overdraft fees of $30 each after a quick meal at McDonald’s. But she quickly found that a polite tone and simple request was all it took to save her almost $100 in fees.

“All I did was call them up and ask to have the entire string of overdraft fees wiped off my bank account,” Catmull said. “I made sure to ask nicely. They didn’t question me for an explanation at all, and waived every charge on the spot.”

Typically, a simple phone call will suffice to get the fee waived. There’s no reason to unnecessarily waste your breath with a long and grueling explanation from the onset. Your initial request can be as simple as:

“Hi, I just noticed an overdraft fee on my account. I’m calling to have it waived.”

The representative will likely put you on hold to either review your account or seek approval from a supervisor to proceed, but with a positive approach you’ll likely see equally positive results.

2. Focus on How Great You Are

If this is your first offense, or if it has been quite some time since your last overdraft incident, play up your good customer report card. Explain that it was a one-off mishap, and refer back to your sterling record.

Have you never let your account slip into the negative before? Is your paycheck direct deposited into the account? If yes, you can strengthen your defense by asking for a good faith waiver.

Many checking account holders, including Andrew Schrage of MoneyCrashers.com, have had success at using their good rapport with an institution to get overdraft fees waived.

“The last time I switched banks, I unfortunately didn’t do a very good job of staying organized throughout the process,” Schrage said. “I switched my direct deposit into the new account, but forgot to transfer a few automatic payments from my old account. As a result, two utility bills were drawn from the old account when there weren’t enough funds to cover them.”

Despite secretly planning to switch banks anyway, he decided to pursue a waiver request.

“… I just told them there was a problem with my direct deposit. I previously had a very good history with the bank, and had never faced an overdraft before, which helped me to get a one-time adjustment.”

Loyalty also plays a major role in your ability to get overdraft fees waived. Especially after the Bank Transfer Day movement several years ago, financial institutions are wary of losing their most loyal customers due to fees. Note how many years you’ve been a customer with the institution and add in the number of active accounts you have with the bank to prove your point.

A response similar to this might press your stance:

“I’ve been a loyal customer for 12 years, and have opened a number of accounts with this bank because I was always treated right. But I really would like this overdraft fee waived. What else can you do to help me with this?”

If the customer service representative sounds determined to not waive your charges, you don’t have to take “no” for an answer.

3. Make an Appearance

PeopleMetrics’ 2010 Most Engaged Customers study found that eye contact and being able to physically see facial expressions “allow for a better understanding of mood and personality.”

Visit your branch in person and speak with an associate about how to get overdraft fees waived. It’s a lot harder to say no to a customer who’s looking you straight in the eye. Use this one-on-one approach to your advantage by enacting both tips above. This trifecta should convince the bank teller and his supervisor that you deserve to be pardoned from the overdraft fees.

While these recommendations might get overdraft fees waived, an even better safeguard against these fees is to opt out of overdraft protection for checking accounts. Sure, you won’t be able to rack up purchases carefree, but at least you won’t have overdraft fees looming over your head.

With so many banks and credit unions being extra sensitive to how customers respond to overdraft fees, there’s no reason to let these charges hack away at your funds.

Photo credit: Tax Credits

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  • sbarrytown

    Bank of america—refunded ONE of three od fees because I asked them. My issue is-I checked my account at the end of the day~three debits-all cleared. Leaving me with $250 in that account. The next morning an overdrawn account as I had forgotten about a $300 check that was out. But they withdrew in order of amount-so they charged me 3 fees. Rip-off

    • Dave

      heh paid a bill on their “free billpay” and it went through on the 4th. electric company confirms this to. but us bank never updated the deduction but showed it paid which si ironic cause I paid 2 other bills the exact same day and time within a min of each other and they were transactioned on the day they all were suppose to be paid, the 4th. but the electric didn’t show up till the 9th and I got overdrawn… uh what?

  • kari

    U.s. bank never updates theit online site…multiple over drafts…hate them

    • Jon Goff

      Here’s an idea, balance your own check book. Know how much you have, how much you spend and do the math. It’s simple addition and subtraction. If you stop relying on someone else and took responsibility for your money, you might not be bouncing checks. At any given moment I can tell you, to the penny, what my balance is, without going on the Internet because I, me, no one else, keep track of my money.

      • rene

        Ok “10key Jon”, the balance sheet guru. One transaction per month, then maybe dude. Layoff – be realistic and don’t troll on behalf of the Big Banks(too big to jail). If a bank institution is charging me monthly fees then I expect the data to be up to par. Banks are shady….don’t you know?

      • AvoidTheChase

        When a returned item (+$75) takes 8 days to be credited to my account, a $15 purchase during that time ends up costing me $79!!! ($75-$15= -$15? Plus a $34 insufficient funds fee… Plus a $15 over draft fee for every 3 days balance remains negitive, so TWO of those…) I understand that bank cannot keep up w/ every transaction as its happening (really, i do) but shouldn’t fees be waved (retroactively) based on date item was returned/store released credit??? Grumble, grumble, logic, grumble…

  • Jon T

    On the first suggestion, I think is the best. I personally prepare for these kind of calls being foccused on what the goal of my call is and therefore not let emotions get in the way. I find that in general that there id a magic phrase that most people respond do on a human level, “I need your help, Can you please help me”. Doing that first before the details and letting the Representative do their thing and feeling sincerely valued by you. I will be sincerely humble and appreciative.

  • Dedie

    I bank at regions since oct 22 the bank had taken over 1400 dollars in bank fees in which they caused it! Now how can I get my money back since there the ones that caused it?

  • Adi

    Thanks! It worked! I also threatened to change banks, though super nicely, I never yelled or anything. I just said we’ve been with you almost 10 years as a married couple and I’ve been with you since I was 15 (15 years ago) and if you can’t help me, I’m going to have to find a bank that cares about their loyal customers. Three overdraft fees for small charges (ranging $2-8) taken care of. Thanks!!

    • GBR Casey

      Wow, that’s awesome! Thanks for sharing your success story :)

  • Kitty

    I do have to say…I work for customer service for a cellphone company, so, as you can imagine, we get a lot of people looking for credits. And honestly, the whole “I’ve been a loyal customer” and “I’ve never been late” thing actually gets REALLY annoying. To the point that I will be less likely to issue a credit at that point. We hear it dozens of times a day.
    What makes me way more likely to help someone when it comes to credits is if they’re polite and acknowledge that they messed up (provided it’s their fault–if it’s the company’s, just don’t make a big deal about it. You’re going to get your credit either way, but it makes the whole thing way more pleasant if you can be calm and just realize things happen and that the company will fix it).

    • HarleyQuinn

      I agree. I’ve worked in all sorts of customer service roles for different companies. I am much much more likely to assist someone who doesn’t go into, “i’ve been with you for 20 years…”….well, yes, I can see that on your account. However, if they approach me with honesty and are polite, “hey, I know I messed up- i’m just looking for a little help with this..” I will do everything I can to resolve it for them

  • Rose

    It didn’t work for me with Wells Fargo. They were very rude and said it was the system’s decision and they couldn’t overturn it even if they wanted to. I spoke with two people and both railed off the same nonsense. I think I’ll be switching banks, but I doubt any are better.

    • sadtimes

      The same thing happened to me as well. 3 accidental over draft fees (I over drafted about $25 total) at $35 per fee. Direct deposit was put in my account within 12 hours, multiple other deposits as well. They were horribly rude, refused to refund or waive the fees, but instead gave me back $26 out of $105. I will be switching banks soon.

  • TiredofOvedrafts

    Got $140 waived by BOA. I called first thing when they opened and politely asked to have the entire string waived and she took care of it no questions asked!

  • Liss

    I MY bank is Kern school credit union.. and I’ve found this bank is the best of the best… they don’t charge me for anything.. unfortunately, I’ve had 2 overdrafts on my account.. I just called them and follow you advice of being polite . I told the operator “I wonder if you can help me to get waived the $30 fee? And she said give me a second.. at the end she just told me your $30 have been credited to you coconut.. you have a new balance of….” love the way I got my money back without yelling. .. thank u for the advice

    • liss


  • Fee-d2death

    Just had an overdraft fee waived from my bank and got this reply back “We will give you a courtesy waiver this time but we cannot do it again” Needless to say, due to circumstances of recent checks being deposited sooner than expected, I have again incurred overdraft fees. So all the sweet talking in the world is not going to get them removed once again, no matter what this says. It all depends on how valuable a customer you are to your institution.I have no doubt a member with a 5 or six figure account balance would get fees removed more easily than one with a three digit balance.

    • Keith B. Dixson II

      If you had 6 figures, there wouldn’t be an overdraft

      • AvoidTheChase

        Ha! LOVE your wit! First time I’ve smiled all day!

        • Keith B. Dixson II

          No problem

  • San Diego Mayor

    Work for me. Had a 2 months old $92 OD fees removed.

  • Angelo_Frank

    Simple: Opt-out of overdraft protection.

  • barner

    I have never asked for a waive before, is it possible because of having too many overdrafts pay check to pay check to get a bank to even consider waiving the fees? Because of a garnishment months ago I have yet to recover from.

  • Disgusted Donna

    Guaranty Bank was the WORST I’ve ever seen as far as fines go! I made a Deposit that more than covered expenses I incurred the day after the deposit. Then, about 1 1/2 weeks later, I started getting a string of OD notices from them…@$35 each, mounting up to an astronomical amount of money! Now, they COULD have called me, but no….making money by charging fees was more important than customer service! The original reason why they bounced the checks? I needed to wait 3 days for the entire deposit to clear, as there was ONE check in the deposit! And, that didn’t cover the charges that came from everywhere I wrote out checks to that were part of my original deposit! GB customer service allowed me ONE fee to be written off….$35…. That was it! Needless to say, I’m not with them any longer!

  • GreedyNeedy

    Wells Fargo-no empathy or sympathy when bad things happen to good people’s account with our own human error! Robotic responses! Only credited back 1 OD Fee & said “supervisor” can’t do anything about the 2nd one-charged in stone!
    I thought BOA banking was a PITA; Wells Fargo takes the cake.
    Bottom line-after paying $7.00 a month to use their bank, charging $70.00 in OD Fees on a $6.99 transaction-Defanitly closing my accounts with them & I will be telling anyone & everyone who will listen how they operate to the blue collared USA Customers hard earned money.
    Ready to say the hell to all banks & their fees! I work hard for my money-they don’t earn my money!
    Greedy Needy

  • Ron

    I just want to thank you for this article. I got I never thought to simply be nice and ask! It worked for my credit union account, but not for Bank of America. Time to make too big to fail a little smaller by closing my account! =)


    This post is pathetic ! I work for Wells Fargo, and this will not work. You may qualify for a courtesy waiver here and there but threatening to close your accounts will do nothing unless you have a large balance. Broke people cost the bank money, not make them money. The only revenue you generate are the fees lol your measly investment benefits the bank .. nada ! learn to manage the few pennies you do make and stop harassing other hardworking people who are just trying to make a living by DOING THEIR JOB !


    • MicMel

      *(Not Trolling or trying to be rude, just a sincere question): What won’t work, asking for the fees to be waived or getting fees back via small claims case? What position do you hold at Wells Fargo, if you don’t mind me asking. Consumer’s need both sides of the story to successfully carry this process out. I went to U.S. Bank just today and the “manager” was pretty apathetic about me closing my account. I was only using it to transfer funds to a separate bank account.

  • Reese

    Good tips. Life can get crazy sometimes and sometimes things like this happen. It’s good to have this how-to.

  • Elyssa Kirkham

    Beyond this, depositors should definitely consider opting out of overdraft protection as some banks will still charge a fee even to transfer from a savings account. Or find a new bank that doesn’t charge an NSF fee — they are out there!

  • Rosie

    Bank of america charged me two over draft charges on the same check! I wrote a $10.00 check a month ago and I got charged for that . That’s my first over draft and I’m going to the bank in person today and I’m going to asked them to waive the fees.

  • Tashawn Michelle

    Why are we being charged for it anyway? I just want you to decline it. I dont want overdraft protection I just want you to either pay it if the money is available or decline it if its not. SIMPLE