# # Over-Daft Protection

Brother, I Can See Your Skull.

Brother, I Can See Your Skull. - The Coreyshead Blog

Over-Daft Protection

So it’s now been about two years since I could count on having enough money in my checking account at all times.

I’ve grown rather used to this, and am not complaining about it. Even in easier days I did my best to avoid over-extending myself and only bring my situation up now as a precursor to talking about the recent change in banking rules, i.e.; the death of the overdraft fee.

Picture the banker’s grin melting from his weaselly little face.

We all make a mistake from time to time and, in this age of automatically deducted, electronic payments and economic uncertainty, it is not unheard of to attempt a debit card transaction when you shouldn’t. Luckily, most banks enroll you in a service known as “overdraft protection” (or, conversely, saddle you with a form of extortion known as the “overdraft fee”).

And what a boon this service can be! That an institution as faceless and cold as a bank might deign to extend to you, little, inconsequential account-holder that you are, instant access to the funds you require for something as mundane as a pair of bedroom slippers or a trashy novel. At a price, of course but don’t get me wrong: I’m not sneering at the concept. We do sometimes make mistakes and there’s nothing wrong with paying a fee for the opportunity to make things right.

The issues at hand, however, are the unfortunate stacking of said overdrafts (largest first, as opposed to chronologically) and the inability of the would-be overdraftee to opt out of the enabling factor, this euphemistic “overdraft protection.”

I lived with a woman for a good many years who had a penchant for overdrafts and, while I was dismayed by this and saw it as the root of the problem, I was equally dismayed by the bank’s insistence of processing the largest transactions first ($35 pack of gum, anyone?).

Their claim was that the bigger payments were, undoubtedly, the most important, and thus should be served first, while our view (and the view of the courts too, apparently) remains that this practice only helps to insure numerous overdraft fees and thus lines the institution’s proverbial pockets.

Certainly there are times when having an option to take an overdraft fee might be preferable to being refused goods or services but, in general, with a little planning, one can avoid such unfortunate choices.

It is my opinion that, if you can’t afford what you’re trying to buy (and I sometimes can’t), you should be told “no.” It’s that simple. Personal responsibility is always the best course – especially when, as now, it has become so rare a beast.

When this change was announced, that banks would no longer be allowed to enroll you in overdraft programs without your consent, I cheered, planned on leaving mine in the dust, and forgot about it.

As the deadline approached, my bank sent me an email extolling the wonders of overdraft protection and encouraged me to enroll. I smiled, clicked delete … and forgot about it.

Some time later, when I went to check my balance online, I was given a warning that my good, old friend, overdraft protection was going to have to leave soon and yearned to remain near me and my delightfully crinkly money. I clicked the button bidding him a hasty adieu and forgot about it … but was reminded last week when, while attempting to by some groceries, my debit card was declined due to insufficient funds.

Before you start clucking your tongues at me, let me explain that I’d already known the balance of my account was below the likely total but, distracted by the delightful loquacity and twinkling eye of the checker, proffered the wrong card.

In the past, such a monkey-mistake would’ve meant a momentary and rather sharp spike of inflation for my purchase. This time, however, I received a much more acceptable response from my bank – oh, no you don’t, bub! – allowing me to bumble forth with my alternate, and originally intended, method of payment. No real embarrassment, no sinking feeling in my stomach and, most importantly, no goddamn overdraft fee.

I collected my receipt, made a mental note to go through her line again as soon as possible, and forgot about it.

Then, tonight, my phone rang.

It was an anxious young man eager to inform me that my overdraft protection had expired. He warned me, with mounting alarm, of an eventuality much like the one I just described but with a far less happy ending.

Cutting him off in mid-sentence, I explained in a kind yet firm voice that I was aware of the situation and had already opted out in as full and happy awareness of the consequences as I did now.

But the bank, through it’s agent, is not so easily daunted. It wants us to feel naked, nervous, and terrified without the hovering wings of its overdraft protection, as if we are but shivering waifs cast onto the cruel streets without the ability to balance our checkbooks or live within our means.

Railing anew, now in full script-mode, my assailant went on about the horrors of being declined when buying gas, clothing, movie tickets, or – how embarrassing! – after having already eaten a meal. Wouldn’t that be a nasty surprise?

Much less nasty, I replied, than the attendant avalanche of surprise overdraft fees. Imagine, I asked of him, that you just discovered you’re not only broke but in deeper debt than you’d ever intended. Wouldn’t that be a little nastier?

He shut up then, defeated and, if I took his tone correctly, a little disappointed in me. It was a tone that said he expected something a little more obvious of someone dumb enough to continue banking at Wells Fargo. Gee, sorry … good point.

Now that I’ve hung up the phone and written this, I am sure I’ll soon just forget about it.

Let’s hope we all can.

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2 Responses to “Over-Daft Protection”

  1. Shannon Trevithick says:

    Wells Fargo and other banks are preying on people? Good thing the Repubs are about to take back the House (and possibly Senate) to protect us from these overbearing money types!

    I, unfortuntely, bought into Wells’ “protection” and got nailed once–I called and screamed so loud they reversed the charge. Lucky for me I’m a good screamer . . .

  2. cae says:

    Here’s to hoping they are unable to overturn this decision. They’re appealing it and the case should be hitting the courts after their Republican buddies are back in power.


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