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Opting In to Overdraft for Fee Income, Customers

From: "Opting In to Overdraft for Fee Income, Customers", USBanker, Kate Davidson, April 2010

Don't expect community banks to follow Bank of America's lead and drop their overdraft protection programs in advance of upcoming regulatory changes.
Many smaller banks say they plan to keep offering such services because demand is strong and overdraft fee income is essential. Consultants say that these banks, unlike Bank of America, do not necessarily need to curry favor with the public by getting rid of the service.
Marcia Johnson, the corporate operations officer at Glacier Bancorp, a $4.1 billion-asset company in Kalispell, Mont., said it considered dropping overdraft protection on its 221,000 checking accounts. But overdraft fees generate considerable income, and the bank decided offering protection was better for customers than going without.

"We envisioned some of the situations — being in the grocery store line and having all our things on the belt and being declined," she said. "Our thought was that we wanted to go through the process to give them the opportunity to opt in."

At the $11.6 billion-asset TCF Financial Corp. in Wayzata, Minn., which has 1.7 million checking account customers, overdraft fees account for about 40 percent of net income, said Jason Korstange, director of corporate communications. The company does not plan any change in its program, other than notification and an opt-in form.

Consultants predict that community banks that embrace the rule change and reduce their fees may stand to gain the most in terms of revenue and accounts.

"Those banks that are lowering that price, they're going to win Bank of America's checking accounts," said G. Michael Moebs, the founder and principal of Moebs Services, a Lake Bluff, Ill., company that consults for 2,000 credit unions and banks. "I believe very strongly that community banks are going to pick that revenue up."

Under changes in the Fed's Regulation E — which enforces the Electronic Funds Transfer Act — by July 1 banks must obtain permission from new customers for automatic overdraft protection on nonrecurring debit card transactions and automated teller machine withdrawals.

By Aug. 15, banks must obtain opt-in approval from existing customers.

A Moebs survey found that, of the 11.4 percent of banks that have begun preparing for the rule change, a little more than half plan to raise overdraft fee amounts, 18.4 percent said they would cut fees and 11 percent would offer overdraft protection for the first time. About 13.5 percent planned to drop the service.

The Consumer Federation of America, in a press release last month, urged banks to follow Bank of America's lead "instead of launching a hard-sell campaign to persuade its customers to opt-in to the most expensive form of overdraft coverage."

Written By: rnybeck
Date Posted: 4/6/2010
Number of Views: 2591