Chase Now Has Human ATM Greeter Who Helpfully Sells Overdraft Protection

As the August 15th deadline for bank customers to opt in to overdraft protection on their existing accounts looms, banks are trying some innovative new tactics. Nicole tells Consumerist that she visited an ATM Chase branch on a Saturday morning to withdraw some cash, and encountered an employee stationed near the ATMs, asking customers whether they had “made a decision” about their “debit card overdraft coverage.”

She writes:

I’m a new Chase customer (I finally left Citibank in January!) and I’ve been getting a ton of mail about the Debit Card Overdraft Coverage (this is what Chase is calling it at least), as I’m sure a lot of people are. I probably get 2-3 pieces of mail per week. I know some people have been getting phone calls, though I am not one of them. Yet. Personally, I keep good track of my finances and if I don’t have the money for something, I do NOT want to give Chase $34 to buy it. Chances are, it’s groceries or coffee or something minor that if I got charged $34 for on top of the actual cost, I’d be so mad!

Anyway, so I was in a Chase branch near my apartment in [redacted] on Saturday morning around 10am, grabbing cash before hitting up the local farmer’s market. And in the area where the ATMs are, there was a Chase employee standing there, talking to a customer. The Chase employee kept saying, “It’ll only take 10 minutes,” and the customer kept saying no. I went to the ATM, took out my $40, and went to leave when the employee stopped me. I was a little surprised – usually most people just get their money and go, right? – when the employee asked me, “Excuse me, but I have a question. Have you made a decision about your debit card overdraft coverage?” I was pretty taken aback that they are now having employees directly ask customers who are just in the bank to use the ATMs. I told her simply “yes” and walked out the door.

I was quite surprised that Chase is putting employees at the ATMs – not even walking into the actual branch, which is through another door. Bold, no?! What if I was a Bank of America customer using a Chase branch? She must have seen my Chase card? Oh, the desperation of banks!

Nicole lives in one of America’s largest cities and visited a busy branch, so these greeters won’t show up in all branches. But it sounds like Chase, at least, is getting desperate, and this tactic is an indicator of how much of a profit banks make off overdraft fees and the resulting $38 cups of coffee.

Should you sign up for overdraft protection? That depends on your situation and how you use money. Consumer Reports recommends that you don’t, and find other ways to cover your behind if you’re struggling and your bank balance sometimes hovers near zero.

Banks Luring You Into Signing Back Up For High Overdraft Fees
Banks Must Now Ask You To Opt In To Debit Card Overdraft Plans


Edit Your Comment

  1. E-Jungle says:

    I would leave my bank instantly if they started charging me for overdrafting, for them 10 others that will be happy with my business.

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      Banks USED to be able to charge for overdrafting without the approval of the customer. Now they can no longer, unless you give them specific instructions to do so.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Congrats, you proved his point. He now has the freedom to choose a bank that does not charge him for a useless service.

        • Rectilinear Propagation says:

          Except you don’t have to choose another bank because none of them are allowed to charge you overdraft fees on debit and ATM transactions without permission after August 15th.

  2. NashuaConsumerist says:

    There’s nothing worse than a $40 cup of coffee and bagel in the morning, I’ve been there many times with Citizens (partially a mix of my own fault and the bank’s unwillingness to report pending charges removed from available balance when using an ATM). I brought the subject up when I was depositing a check and the teller seemed insulted that I would decline Citizens’ offer to cover my over-draft. She went on to say it’s a service with a huge benefit. I then asked if it could be offered for $5 per overdrafted occurance with it writing that using said ‘service’ would never place a ding on my financial history or credit report. Needless to say, she declined my request. I’d certainly opt back in under those conditions, even at $10. But $39 is way off base for someone who obviously has a cash flow issue. Time to go to a credit union….

    • qwickone says:

      I work at a bank and none of the employees were informed of the risk of opting in, they were only told it is the most awesome thing ever and the big scary government is making them take it away unless we have permission.

      • Krobar says:

        no offense but your bank sucks. They fully explained it to us (I also work at a bank) and why we should try to talk customers into keeping the service (protip: the bank makes more money).

        And yes, every single person in the training laughed at them. Every one.

    • dragonfire81 says:

      I am with a credit union, I get charged $20 per overdraft.

    • TasteyCat says:

      Sovereign does it for $12 if you link it the checking account to a savings account. I’m still not interested, but it beats $39.

  3. bikeoid says:

    Hey, those poor fat cat bankers at the top need some way to justify their $740 Million salaries.

  4. obits3 says:

    Have you made a decision to accept Chase overdraft into your life? Here’s a tract.

  5. SnickerDoodle says:

    Here in Canada, where I am a Royal Bank customer, I have blanket overdraft protection; $500 just in case. It is part of my account package and the bank does charge me a fairly high rate of interest but for the very occaisional charge that crosses paths with a deposit, I don’t freak out.

    Don’t American banks have something similar, even for a small monthly fee?

    • nbs2 says:

      Once upon a time, they did. Then they got rid of the monthly fee in exchange for per use fees, since customers didn’t like paying the fee when they weren’t using it. Then the banks realized that people weren’t making as much. And the fees went up.

      At least, that’s what I remember. But, I could be wrong.

    • Chmeeee says:

      You can get an actual line of credit with BoA that ties into your checking. Then if you overdraft, it just transfers your purchase + a little bit into your checking acct to cover the debit. The per use fee is little to none I believe. The overdraft they are talking about though used to be pretty much standard. If you overdraft, your account just goes negative, and you get charged $39 or something similarly ridiculous.

    • frank64 says:

      Yes, mine does. I have $1,000 in an automatic loan that kicks in if I overdraw. I got it almost automatically when I opened my account. My bank is a smaller community bank, but they have around 10 branches. All you have to do is find one of these banks. Not that hard.

    • You Can Call Me Al(isa) says:

      The credit union I have an account with has that for my checking account. I don’t pay a fee for it.

    • Etoiles says:

      Mine is the same: it’s a $1000 credit line on my checking account, and a $300 credit line on the joint checking account I share with my husband. There are no fees for it, and although technically there’s a high interest rate (18.99%), if I pay it off within a week or two at most (as I always do, on the occasions when I’ve dipped into it) then the interest doesn’t apply.

      I mentioned elsewhere but when something happens like June, where my student loans are double-billed right *after* I’ve made a large purchase like airfare, that credit line is a life saver.

    • mrcomps says:

      I’m Canada too, and I love the way my credit union account works: Once I had a cheque clear that was larger than my balance, and my credit union simply transferred the money out of my savings account plus a $10 fee. This approach is much more self-managing since my account never goes into the negatives, which means that instead of having my next few deposits bring my account back above zero (with the risk that I will have future overdrafts), my deposits have the expected effect of simply increasing my balance.

      The problem with overdraft systems is that unless you KNOW that you have overdrafted, you will continue making purchases, unaware that you are being dinged $35 each time, as several stories on Consumerist have shown.

      • Matzoball says:

        My credit union does this for free. If Checking goes overdrawn they draft out of my savings account. Only real issue I have is ATM fraud can give them access to me savings account.

    • tape says:

      Some banks do — I know my credit union offers this, but I am not signed up for it. But they couldn’t possibly steal nearly as much money from you under that plan as they could with their “automatic” debit card “convenience overdraft” at $35 per incident.

  6. rpm773 says:

    Bank manager to ATM greeter: “Well, you’d better get out there an earn your spot. Those overdrafts were your paycheck.”

  7. SkokieGuy says:

    My bank offers an overdraft line of credit. I have a $2500 unsecured line of credit, that is only at about 3.5% interest. If I overdraft, they automatically make a deposit into my checking account and debit my line. Other than the interest on the line, there are no other fees. For that reason, it’s an awesome cash management tool.

    North Shore Community Bank & Trust – Love ya!

  8. nbs2 says:

    Not relevant to the issue, per se, but another reason to love USAA. They tie my USAA CC to checking account as overdraft protection, and simply push a cash advance without charging the overdraft fee. However, they treat it like a credit charge, so I don’t incur the usurious cash advance fees. It has been really helpful the few times I have accidentally double transferred money to my ING account.

    • theblackdog says:

      Just make sure you’re not carrying a balance as well because as far as I still know, USAA applies your payments to your credit balance first, then cash advances.

    • tbax929 says:

      I love USAA, but I just got hit with a $25 overdraft fee (completely my fault). I’m going to sign up for a credit card with them so that it can’t happen again. It was for my rent check, so I’m actually glad they let that one go through.

  9. SexCpotatoes says:

    The last time I took cash out of the ATM, like the 28th of last month, I must have missed a splash-screen because I was automatically opted in to Over-dicking Protection.

    Got a letter a week later thanking me for opting in, and had to call them to get the Overdraft “feature” removed.

  10. Dallas_shopper says:

    Outrageous behavior. Simply outrageous and unacceptable.

    • SkokieGuy says:

      Outrageous that a business is trying to sell a product?

      That they put a person at a spot on their property ideal to interact with customers?

      Certainly debating the merit of taking out OD protection is valid, but outrageous & unacceptable for them to market it?

      There are plenty of things in this world to be outraged about. Chase trying to sell a product that makes them money is probably not one of them.

      • Dallas_shopper says:

        Outrageous to put a “stalker” at the ATM to check for Chase ATM cards so he can harass them about a snake oil bullshit product, yes.

        I find it unacceptable. YMMV.

        • Dallas_shopper says:

          Then again we ARE talking about the same company that sent me 4-6 direct mailings a week for months before I used the customer assistance number posted on this blog to call them to make them stop. Now I get only 1-2 mailings a month. That’s more than I want, but at least I’m not having to buy a new shredder every month to handle the staggering volume of junk mail that Chase alone generates.

          And I’m not now nor have I EVER been a Chase customer (nor will I ever be). Nobody in my family is a Chase account holder. I have no idea how they got hold of my information but I’d like to slap whoever sold it to them.

        • ShruggingGalt says:

          Snake oil?

          Wait until they start clearing checks mid-day (they already do for corporate accounts) and the complaints come in about being arrested at a restaurant for failure to pay at lunch…..

          While this kind of thing may take a while to actually happen I know it’s going to. I’m not defending the banks automatically enrolling people in this “service”, it’s just my experience in reading the complaints of those who have paid $38 for a cup of coffee. And it starts with “I forgot about this check or that check….” And so now their debit card will be refused “when I had money in the bank!!!!!” because they forgot about a check they wrote.

          • Dallas_shopper says:

            I haven’t overdrafted since college, and that was the bank’s screw-up, not mine (they even acknowledged it and dropped all the overdraft fees).

            I agree that people should know how much is in their account and not go over it, but I also know that sometimes you have to shave it a bit fine especially if you are living hand to mouth as so many are in this economy. Having banks push this stupid bullshit service at you doesn’t help.

            Personally if I was accosted at my branch’s ATM by one of their employees pushing this service on me, I would immediately go inside the branch and complain to the manager…not about the employee who is just doing his job, but at the company itself for telling him to in the first place. After that I might drop a brief e-mail to the corporation itself telling them what turds they are for aggressively marketing something that savvy members of the public knows is a trap designed to ensnare the desperate and naive…and line the banks’ pockets at the same time. You remember, the ones we bailed out with our fucking money.

  11. XTREME TOW says:

    If the branch was closed at the time of the ATM visit, I would have called the police to report: “…a suspicious person pretending to be a bank employee, hanging around the ATM Machine, asking people for information about their accounts.”
    No, I do not have an Attitude Problem about banks.
    My Attitude works just fine, Thank You.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I was thinking something along these lines. Initially I thought the OP was saying someone was at the drive-up ATM, which would be creepy and suspicious. If the person was anything other than within eyesight of the front bank staff, I would have at least told the staff if not the police.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:


        Even if they are bank employees I don’t want them standing over my shoulder while I use the ATM.

    • Red Cat Linux says:

      I was thinking that people who approach me outside of an ATM are running a 50% chance of getting pepper sprayed into next week.

  12. Xyjar says:

    I make so much money off of people opting-in to overdraft protection. Starting last month we get offered an incentive for each person who says yes, and it’s so easy to get people to say yes. No matter how you explain it, they really don’t understand what they’re signing up for. This Friday’s paycheck will be my biggest one yet. Cha ching!

    (I of course opted out on my personal account.)

  13. Jfielder says:

    I am SO sick of Chase constantly harrassing me about this too. At least one mailer a week (it’s the same one each time), and every single time I log in to online banking I get bugged about it.

    It’s time to just let it go, Chase, no one wants your “overdraft protection”.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Vote with your feet. I’m all for a mass Chase exodus.

  14. Etoiles says:

    I’ve had a credit line attached to my debit card for $11 years now. Massively useful when something happens like my %^#@!%%^%#^% student loans double-billing in one month, right after I’ve bought $400 worth of airfare (that was last month). I can pay it back from my savings or from my next paycheck but it’s a great thing when life goes haywire.

    Since my now-BoA account has had this for time out of memory, and the BB&T joint account my husband and I share also does, I thought pretty much everyone offered it. I’ve been surprised to learn otherwise.

  15. Chmeeee says:

    Fun overdraft story: When I finished college, I ended up moving out of state. The day I was moving, I stopped at an ATM (out of network) to grab the last of the money that was in my old bank account, as I was opening a new account with BoA. I figured I’d get around to closing the old one when they were open and things were less hectic (new job, moving, setting up utilities, etc). I knew my balance was about $42, so I took that much out. BoA charged a $1 fee, so it was a $41 withdrawal. Well, BankNorth also charged a $1.25 fee, thus overdrafting my account by a whopping $0.25. They took the pleasure of charging my a $29 overdraft fee for the convenience of paying that quarter. Of course, I wasn’t using the account, and had just moved, so I didn’t catch on. Well, when a week passed, they charged me a $25 late fee. Late fee triggers another overdraft fee, now my account is at -$83. One more week, rinse, repeat. I’m not getting any of these notices because USPS mail forwarding can take up to 3 weeks.

    The fees hit $150 and they closed the account. I called several times to work it out, and every phone rep I talked to was very nice, and agreed that it was ridiculous that a $0.25 overdraft had triggered $150 in fees, but nobody could actually DO anything about it.

    • Bativac says:

      A similar thing happened with my credit union account. I used my debit card at a vending machine, and I guess I was running low on funds that week (this was years ago when I was a stupid college kid… now I’m a stupid adult). There was like a 42 cent overdraft, which resulted in a $35 overdraft fee. Of course, I used the card on 2 machines, and the 2nd charge went thru after the first, resulting in TWO $35 fees.

      The difference here is I called the credit union, and I received a stern lecture about overdrafting, but they forgave the fees. I never overdrafted the account again.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Hate to say it, but you have no one to blame but yourself on this one. You should have, at a miniumum:

      A) KNOW how much was in your account
      B) KNOW what your bank would charge for an out-of-network transaction
      C) KNOW what the out-of-network was charging you for the transaction.

      You could have saved yourself $150 by simply not using an out-of-network ATM.

      • Chmeeee says:

        I acknowledge my own error, but at the same token, I believe the ATM shouldn’t authorize a withdrawal for more than you have available funds. I also believe there should be some sort of mercy factor in the computerized fines to avoid completely alienating your customers. In the words of Jon Stewart, “Be a f*cking person.” Every customer rep I spoke with was on my side of that.

        In all honesty though, the bigger error on my part was not checking up on that account for over a month.

      • Nytmare says:

        That’s funny, the bank knew all that information too but chose to shaft him instead.

    • wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

      I once paid an overdraft fee because of a .54 cent miscalculation.

  16. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    If I walked into my bank and this situation came up, where a person is begging me to opt in to overdraft, I would most likely close my account in the same visit.

  17. Murph1908 says:

    I use a simple method. I keep $200 in each account that is my ‘zero’ point. That way, if I do go below ‘zero’, I have $200 of my own, free overdraft protection. The only thing it costs me is the $5 or so a year I a missing out on interest on that savings.

    It started years ago at $25, then $50, $100, and finally the current $200.

    My mom taught me that trick when I got my first checking account.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      You shocking common sense won’t compute on those that actually need overdraft protection

      Not leeting my checking account near zero? Impossible?!

    • Serisent says:

      Your method makes a great deal of sense. Unfortunately, those of us living paycheck to paycheck might not have that option. I try to do this, by keeping at least $50 in checking, but sometimes life just gets in the way.

      That being said, I do keep a tight watch on my finances and have never yet overdrafted, and would never opt in for overdraft protection.

  18. adamstew says:

    I’m actually surprised. I bank with Bank of America (I know, I know… i’m terrible). I have received an insert with my statement explaining, pretty clearly, the differences between the two and a form I could mail in to “opt-in”.

    That’s it.

    I haven’t received numerous phone calls, letters, etc. at all yet.

    • Murph1908 says:

      Same here. BOA, and no calls or harassment.

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      Same here…BoA account holder, no e-mails or snail mails or phone calls about “opting in.” I went to my local branch a few weeks ago and aside from my tellers not being able to do simple arithmetic (telling me a check written in January that I was trying to cash in May was more than 6 months old therefore they wouldn’t do it), they didn’t hassle me at all.

  19. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    Chase has been in NYC doing this for weeks now. I’ve encountered these pleasant people near the ATMs quite frequently. It’s interesting that they don’t put people out there to offer us new products, better interest rates, or to ask how Chase is doing. They only put people out there to try to stem the loss of this gravy train they’ve had for a long time.

    • oldwiz65 says:

      I wonder if anyone asks for their Chase ID to make sure they really work for Chase and are not scammers or thugs waiting to grab your cash?

  20. BuriedCaesar says:

    I’m always careful how I answer questions posed by salespeople, in person or on the phone – especially these type of questions. By just saying “Yes” and walking on, the OP’s response could have been easily interpreted as agreeing to have the overdraft protection added to her account. I hope that doesn’t happen, but if so, and she then complained about it, the reply could be that she agreed to it when she spoke to the rep – her answer was “simply yes”, with no context, so the rep added the context and thereby, the “protection”.

    Any time someone asks me a “yes/no” question like that I try to answer back with the same words the person used. In this case, it would probably be something along the lines of “My decision has been made, thank you”.

    • hattrick says:

      You actually don’t have to answer strangers who walk up to you on the street at all, ever. You can just give them the old stink eye.

      Well, unless the stranger has a badge and a gun. Even then, you don’t have to say much.

  21. Thyme for an edit button says:

    I was worried that my credit union would be pushy about it, but not so far. I have gotten two emails about it and the site where you click for information doesn’t push it as The Best Service Ever. It just says what the service is and how it works. Imagine that.

    • Buckus says:

      One of my credit unions (I have accounts at two), basically has the Overdraft Opt-in as their “banner” on top of their website. Very annoying. I hope it goes away soon. I’ll forgo that $2 cup of Joe if it means saving $35 in overdraft fees. Also, I check my accounts practically everyday just in case of suspcious activity, so I usually know to within a few bucks of my available balance. And since I only write a few checks a month, for some utilities that charge a “Convenience” fee of $10 to pay online, the float doesn’t kill me.

  22. CWG85338 says:

    I know it isn’t the employee’s fault they have to stand out there and pimp for their bank, but maybe if we pepper spray a few, Chase will rethink the strategy. No, they will likely just hand out goggles to them, and charge customers another fee to pay for it.

    • dg says:

      I was thinking that rather than pepper spray – a nice punch in the mouth would work. “No really Officer, I thought it was a scam artist dressed up like a Chase employee…They’ve already sent me 15 letters and 20 emails that I’ve said no to. And the 50 times on the ATM (including today) that I said no to. So they should know. This guy creeped me out and grabbed me – check the video. So I popped him in the teeth and left.”

      The first person that grabs me at an ATM will be extremely sorry. And it’ll all be on camera…

      • JeremieNX says:

        And I would be thrilled to see you put in cuffs and hauled downtown. Annoying as the greeters may be, it’s ridiculous to even joke in this manner.

  23. tape says:

    “Excuse me, but I have a question. Have you made a decision about your debit card overdraft coverage?”

    Yes, since you’ve impeded me from leaving your branch, I’ve decided to close all of my accounts with your bank and take them elsewhere. Right this second, actually. Could you help me with that?

  24. areaman says:

    As odd as this sounds, I think a lot of people will sign up it this way. Many people use overdraft protection as a pay day loan.

    Also my roommate in college made it a part of his ritual to keep spending until his account hit a negative balance. He wasn’t happy until he bought a slice of pizza and a coke for $40.

  25. gedster314 says:

    What’s worse then the ATM greeter? You go into the bank and if the teller sees that you have not opted in they send you to another person who tries to twist your arm to sign up and when you decline you have to fill out and sign a form saying you declined I miss my WAMU. Chase has been one cluster F*** after another.

    Does Chase think we are stupid? This Debit Overdraft protection is a joke. $35 just so when you go over with a debit card they approve it and you have one day to deposit funds or they charge you. No Thank You Chase, I prefer to have my card declined!

  26. QrazyQat says:

    Here’s a consumer… that is CUSTOMER tip: the more the advertising and marketing for an item costs, the less it’s good for you. If they can afford to have a guy stand around all day and harangue customers, there’s way too much profit in it for them for it to be a good deal for you.

    The same goes with things the internet phone “deals” your cable company keeps trying to rope you into. If they can afford to keep sending out stuff to you begging you to buy in, it’s too much a profit maker for them for it to be a good deal for you.

    This isn’t a perfect system, but it’s always a huge red flag. Pay attention to it and when you see the red flag, put up your defenses.

  27. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Why don’t they just put a notice in the ATM itself? Don’t most modern ATMs show you bank ads now? Wachovia ATMs show rotating ads while not in use and then show an ad before it spits out the money. Why not just put the overdraft ad there?

    Do Chase ATMs not do this?

    • Buckus says:

      With our luck, the ATM would say something like “If you want your money now, you must opt-in to overdraft protection. Take money now (yes) Leave ATM Empty-Handed (No). Please select now.”

  28. JeremieNX says:

    I work for a large bank that will remain undisclosed. We don’t try to “sell” the opt-in for OD coverage at all and it’s our policy *not* to sway any customer either way on the decision. We can only explain the difference of the two choices.

    I have heard from the grapevine that other banks have established quotas and are expecting their employees to get an x number of people to opt in. I am sure glad we don’t have that nonsense.

  29. RvLeshrac says:

    Bank headquarters are wall-to-wall worthless scum.

  30. clo says:

    Pleased to see this thread, as I almost lost my temper yesterday morning with a teller over this issue. I have been getting angrier and angrier about the continual mail (wasteful and expensive), the ATM splash screens, and the online banking pop-ups and redirects. it’s like they are spending billions that I will somehow eventually pay for, to harass me to opt in to something that we finally have legal protections from being automatically opted-in to.

    So I need to deposit a check fast and get to work for a meeting, and the teller will not accept “I am not interested and I do not want to discuss it.” They have this scare-tactics script that makes it sound like they are protecting me from huge fees and not the reverse. “We won’t be able to reverse fees…” ‘You have to make a decision; if you don’t one will be made for you..” I was so angry, and I didn’t even want to get into what a twisted spin that is on the concept of opt-in. I said, “Can you please just deposit my check?” Then she got testy and told me she was depositing my check, but also trying to give me helpful information.

    I felt like a complete bitch, but I also felt very very angry on behalf of younger or more naiive or nicer people who will be manipulated into signing up, or tricked into thinking they have to listen and make a choice. That is not true; it is a lie. And then I got really angry thinking about how the banks use our deposited money to make unfathomable profits and act like it’s this huge favor to us.

    Obviously the low-paid tellers and lurkers are on commission to hard-sell this stuff. And the whole system is heartbreaking and grotesque.