Monday, August 10, 2009

Bank Fees (One Side of the Story)

There is an interesting, although incomplete in my opinion, story on the web page of American Public Media's Marketplace website. The story is about the overdraft fees banks are collecting when people misuse their debit cards. It goes back to the overdraft protection many of us get when we open our checking accounts and get an ATM/debit card. The story explains how using your card to buy a $1 pack of gum when you don't have sufficient funds in your account may end up costing you as much as an additional $35 in overdraft fees. (You can click on the link about the Fed for a marginally better, although still incomplete story on this part of the page. Generally, I find better reporting from APM and Marketplace.)

The main reason I feel the piece is incomplete is that it does not address the issue from the perspective of financial education. The main concern seems to be whether banks are somehow taking advantage of consumers, rather than helping consumers understand how to manage their funds - which includes keeping a watch on your bank balance and making informed decisions. I do think that there should be an active choice invoked at the point of purchase, whether the customer has opted for overdraft protection or not. However, solid financial education would go a long way towards helping people at all income and age levels to better manage their resources.

I'd be interested in your comments.

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