How to Get Overdraft Fees Refunded

By Brooke Vaughan // September 3, 2020

Photo for article about how to get overdraft fees refunded
Courtesy of Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

Credit card and bank fees—such as overdraft and returned item fees, service and interest charges, ATM fees, and more—have the potential to wreck your personal finance management. Fortunately, you don’t have to sit back and watch banks and credit card companies take your money. 

Overdraft fees are a significant issue among consumers, accounting for nearly 30% of the fees Cushion detects on customers’ accounts. Some banks offer courtesy overdraft relief programs, such as Wells Fargo’s Overdraft Rewind feature. But there are a few ways you can tackle  overdraft fees head-on even without those options, whether your account is at Bank of America, U.S. Bank, or any other U.S. financial institution. 

Cushion can handle the negotiation for you—all you have to do is sign up. But if you’re looking to take on your bank alone, calling and requesting to have your overdraft fee waived is easier than you might think. 

Banks pay a lot of money to bring on new customers, so they would rather waive a couple of $36 overdraft fees than lose you altogether. Consider this leverage. Here are the things you should know when contacting your bank to request an overdraft fee refund.  

How did you get an overdraft fee in the first place?

An overdraft occurs when you don’t have enough money in your bank account to cover an ATM withdrawal, debit card purchase, online payment, or transfer. To overdraft your account, you have to be opted into overdraft protection. Once opted in, the bank can allow you to overdraft your account by loaning you the funds for a purchase, but they will charge you a fee for doing it. 

Overdraft protection does not apply to pre-authorized transactions, such as written checks and recurring automatic payments. This means that even if you don’t opt in but you write a check and it bounces or you have an automatic payment scheduled to come out of your account, you could still get an overdraft fee.

How to talk to your bank about overdraft fee refunds

It may seem like a hassle—and may even be intimidating—but if you gather necessary information and prepare your argument beforehand, you’ll increase your chances of getting the refund. Here’s how to get ready for your call: 

Prepare your personal information
Your bank will ask for personal information in order to verify your identity. Be prepared with:

  • Your name
  • Address
  • Social security number
  • Debit or credit card number

Introduce yourself
Try using this script: “Hello. My name is [your name], and I recently received an overdraft fee while using my card. I’m contacting you to see if you would be willing to refund this fee.” 

Craft your response
At this point, it’s possible your bank may say that they don’t refund fees. Don’t get discouraged. They often can—and will—when presented with a compelling argument. 

  • Have you been financially affected by COVID-19? 
  • Are you a loyal customer who has banked with the institution for an extended period of time? 
  • Do you have multiple accounts with the bank, such as a savings account, business account, or another personal checking account? 
  • Do you make regular deposits to your account? 
  • Is this overdraft a rare occurrence? 

These arguments are all worthy of a waived overdraft fee, but it’s important to remember a few other things while you’re on the phone with your bank.

3 important things to remember when you’re on the phone

  1. Be polite. The customer service agent that you’re speaking with likely didn’t write the rules on whether or not they can grant overdraft fee refunds. Be patient, and be kind. 
  2. Be persistent. Have several arguments prepared if possible. Focus on your value as a customer rather than why you got the fee. If the agent insists that they can’t help you, politely ask to speak with a supervisor.
  3. Be prepared to not get a fee refunded every time. As a matter of fact, the more frequently you overdraft your account (and call to waive the charges) the less likely your bank will be willing to waive fees in the future. Also keep in mind that sometimes it depends on which agent you speak with. Even if one agent won’t refund the fee, try calling again to pitch your argument to another agent.

How can Cushion help?

Contacting your bank to request a refund can be time consuming and exhausting. Cushion is designed to help safeguard your money, starting with bank and credit card fee refunds. You sign up and select a package. We monitor your bank accounts and credit cards for past and future fees, then automatically negotiate refunds with your bank. 

Our annual membership options allow customers to keep 100% of refunds. You can choose between three packages varying in price, number of negotiations, and frequency of fee scanning.

How can you avoid overdraft fees?

Now that you’ve succeeded (or at least made a valiant effort) in getting your bank to waive the fee, it’s time to buckle down on avoiding any future fees—so you won’t have to worry about making that same call again. 

Keep an eye on your account balance and charges
Although this might seem obvious, it can easily fall by the wayside. Banks are not legally required to notify you if you’ve overdrafted, so they could apply the fee and deduct money from your account without you ever having known. Keep in mind that banks can charge multiple overdraft fees in a single day. If you make a number of purchases or all of your bills come out at once, you could find yourself hundreds of dollars in the red. 

Sign up for low-balance notifications
Rather than manually checking your balance and charges, you can sign up for notifications that alert you when you’re nearing a low balance. Most mobile banking apps offer this feature and allow you to set the threshold yourself so it’ll notify you at as low or high of a balance as you’d like. 

Don’t opt into overdraft protection
In 2010, it became mandatory for banks to require customers to opt in before charging overdraft fees. While opting in still seems to be the default for many account holders, not opting in could save you a ton of money. If you try to make a purchase that’ll send you into overdraft, the purchase will simply be declined. 

Consider not opting in if: you don’t have a lot of essential bills to pay, you’re trying to manage your spending, or you’re an avid user of mobile banking and text message alerts. And remember that you can opt into and out of the program at any time.    

Opt into overdraft protection, but choose the right plan. 
Overdraft protection helps if you’d like the peace of mind knowing you can withdraw money or make a purchase even if the funds aren’t currently in your account. If you’d like this security, you should still be careful about which protection plan you opt into. 

Courtesy or standard overdraft protection allows you to overdraft on ATM withdrawals and debit card purchases; however, your bank will charge an overdraft fee with each transaction. There are other forms of overdraft protection that allow you to go into the red for a fraction of the price. This could include linking your account to another checking account, credit card, or line of credit. While these methods might still stick you with a fee, the fee is typically about half of what a standard overdraft charge would be.

Cushion negotiates bank and credit card fees so you waste less money, save more, and live a financially healthier life. It’s your money after all, and we’re here to help safeguard it. Since Cushion’s launch in 2018, our customers have received more than $3 million in refunds. We leverage artificial intelligence, advanced fee-detection technology, and bank-level encryption to put money back into your account—quickly, efficiently, and securely. More than that, we equip you with the tools for success by providing the most up-to-date data and insights in banking, news, and financial wellness.