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.”
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.