If you’re opening a new bank account today, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to enroll in an overdraft plan for debit-card purchases. And don’t be afraid to say no, either. Today’s the first day that banks have to ask your permission to enroll you in such plans; yesterday, they could have just signed you up automatically. If they did, though, you can still back out. Existing bank customers must opt in no later than August 15th if they want to keep their overdraft “protection.”
The new rule doesn’t apply to checking accounts or to recurring charges billed to a debit card.
Consumer Reports recommends not signing up for the plans, and suggests some other options if you need to tap some reserves when making a purchase:
- Link your checking account to a savings account. If you overdraw your checking account, money in your savings account is used to cover the transaction. Banks typically charge a fee to transfer the money, but it’s usually just $5 to $10—much lower than the fee charged by overdraft programs.
- Set up low-balance alerts. Many financial institutions will send you an e-mail or text when your balance reaches the danger zone.
- Sign up for online banking. Regularly monitoring your checking account online will help you avoid spending money you don’t have.
- Get an overdraft line of credit with your bank or credit union. You’ll need to apply, and customers with poor credit may not qualify. But if you’re eligible, this could provide a less expensive form of overdraft protection than fee-based coverage.
Banks have been plying existing customers with requests to opt in for weeks, and those offers are likely to keep coming until August 15th. If you’re still not sure why you shouldn’t opt in, check out some of the links below.
What’s behind those urgent notices from your bank [Consumer Reports Money]