Debit card dangers
By Miriam Pepper, Star editorial page editor
The banks sure have a way with words. Overdraft protection sounds so soothing. What it masks are the costs of that protection. Those costs brought in $28 billion in fees in 2008.
That’s a whole lot of protection, for the banks’ bottom lines.
Here’s the drill: Consumers pop in a debit card for fast food, a prescription co-pay, groceries or any retail purchase. But no warning announces this purchase will exceed your funds. Instead, often without permission, the bank kindly “covers” the purchase and in return for this favor, charges $34 to $39 a pop. And those fees have been on the upswing.
Overdraft protection is really an overdraft loan, with interest rates not much different from payday loan operators.
Congress can help consumers by passing the Overdraft Protection Act (H.R. 3904) to stem the unauthorized fees. The best part of the bill would require institutions to warn account holders before a transaction overdraws at an ATM or teller and allow consumers to terminate the withdrawal to avoid the fee. That’s real protection.