Nine out of ten Americans have a checking account, but many aren’t up to speed on what happens if they overdraw their account. An overdraft occurs when you spend or withdraw more money than you have in your account. You’ll be able to complete the transaction if you’ve agreed to your bank’s overdraft protection policy, but you’ll probably get charged a fee. If you don’t realize right away that you’ve overdrawn, you might go on to make a bunch of other purchases, potentially racking up more fees as you go.
Many people don’t realize that overdrafts typically occur on transactions smaller than $50, or that banks can tack on a fee between $30 and $100 if it happens, or that banks can legally rearrange the order of your transactions and heap on more fees. What’s more, banks make billions of dollars per year from these fees.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which monitors banks’ overdraft policies, offers tips on how you can reduce overdraft fees or avoid them altogether. Read about them here.