Last updated October 6, 2021
What Is an Overdraft Fee?
Citibank issues you an overdraft fee when you don’t have enough money in your account to complete a transaction but the bank pays for the transaction anyway. When the bank allows you to overdraw your account, they are essentially allowing your balance to fall into the negative until you are able to bring it positive again, and they will charge you a fee for covering for you.
Transactions that can trigger an overdraft fee include:
- Checks or other transactions made using your checking account number
- ACH transactions
- Automatic bill payments (e.g. auto-pay utility bills, credit card payments)
For Citibank to allow you to overdraw your account on other types of transactions, such as ATM withdrawals and debit purchases, you must be opted into one of the bank’s overdraft protection services.
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How Much Does an Overdraft Fee Cost at Citibank?
Citibank charges $34 per overdraft fee.
If you overdraw your Citibank checking account, a number of scenarios could occur.
- Overdraft fee
- Returned item fee
- Overdraft protection transfer fee
These most often occur when you are not opted into overdraft protection and Citibank allows you to overdraw your account on checks, ACH transactions, and other transactions that are not ATM or debit transactions.
Returned item fee
A returned item fee — or non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee — occurs when you make a purchase but there are not enough funds in your Citibank account to cover the transaction. Instead of covering for you, the bank will decline the transaction, or return the item unpaid.
Citibank charges $34 for each item that is returned unpaid. The bank will not charge you a returned item fee for ATM or debit card transactions, but can charge you a fee for checks, ACH transactions, or any other non-ATM or non-debit transaction.
Overdraft protection transfer fee
Overdraft protection transfer fees most often occur when you are opted into overdraft protection and Citibank allows you to overdraw your account and transfer funds from another Citibank account in order to cover the transaction. Rather than a $34 overdraft or returned item fee, Citibank will charge a $10 overdraft protection transfer fee if you are opted into the program.
To enable overdraft protection, you must link a qualified Citibank account so that the bank can transfer funds from one account to another in the event of an overdraft. Qualified accounts include:
- Linked line of credit
- Linked savings account
Citibank limits the number of overdraft fees — including both overdraft and returned item fees — to four on a single day.
You may also incur an overdraft fee if Citibank charges a routine checking account fee, such as a monthly service fee or other monthly fees, that overdraws your account. If a monthly service fee increases the amount that your account is overdrawn, you may also be subject to an overdraft fee.
Direct deposit could be your saving grace if you’ve overdrawn your account. Citibank notes in its Basic Banking Package that a qualifying direct deposit is available on the day of deposit, and deposits are processed before any fees that have been added to your account. For instance, if you make one qualifying direct deposit after you’ve overdrawn your account but before the end of the business day, you should be able to avoid the fee. You may also transfer money from a savings account in order to cover the overdraft charge.
If you struggle with overdraft fees, you may have better luck with a Citibank Access Account. With an Access Account, Citibank will not give you overdraft fees, the bank outlines on its website. If you attempt to overdraw your Access Account, Citibank will simply decline the transaction.
If an Access Account is not the right solution for your finances, you can try overdraft protection. Overdraft protection can help if you’d like peace of mind knowing that your purchases can be covered even if you don’t have sufficient funds in your account. However, overdraft protection is not mandatory, and not opting in could actually save you a significant amount of money. A study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that opted-in accounts typically pay more bank fees than accounts that aren’t opted in, which is why you should carefully consider whether or not it makes more financial sense to opt in.
Remember: You can opt into or out of overdraft protection at any time.
If you’ve signed up for a Citibank Account Package, be aware that you can still overdraft your accounts and be charged a fee. Citibank Account Packages give you the option to link all eligible accounts so you can conduct business between them more easily.
Learn more about what you should know before opting into overdraft protection.
How to Avoid an Overdraft Fee
Overdrafts are one of the most common charges detected on Cushion customers’ accounts, but there are small actions that you can take to avoid them:
- Keep an eye on your account balance and charges.
- Sign up for low-balance notifications.
- Carefully consider whether you should opt into overdraft protection.
- Switch to an Access Account.
How to Get an Overdraft Fee Refund
Unfortunately, fees happen. While the penalty may sting in the moment, there are actually ways for you to put that money back into your Citibank account, whether you’re fighting for overdraft fees, monthly maintenance fees, ATM fees, or any other charges. When starting a negotiation with a Citibank representative, you should follow these steps.
Prepare your information
Name, address, bank account number, and the fees that you’d like to negotiate.
“Hello. My name is [your name], and I recently received an overdraft fee. I’m contacting you to see if you would be willing to refund this fee.”
How can Cushion help me?
Cushion Bill Pay gives you more visibility and control over your finances than ever before. Many people get hit with bank fees—such as overdrafts and late fees—due to cash flow problems. With Cushion, you can consolidate and track all of your bills and BNPL payments in one place, plan your budget by reviewing what’s coming down the pike, and avoid overdraft fees by temporarily pausing payments that might overdraft your account and resuming them when you are ready.
Have your points of leverage ready
Are you experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19? Is this overdraft a rare occurrence? Are you a loyal customer who has banked with Citibank for an extended period of time? Do you have multiple accounts with the bank? Do you make regular deposits?
Be patient, persistent, and prepared not to get a refund every time
Remember: The Citibank representative that you speak to likely didn’t write the rules on bank fee refunds. Be kind and patient throughout the process.
You also shouldn’t hesitate to press the issue if you initially hear “no.” The representative might counter-negotiate, stating that the financial institution is not a bank that issues refunds. Your points of leverage can help change the representative’s mind. Sometimes, success depends on the representative that you speak with, so try calling back a few days later to speak with someone new.
Finally, you unfortunately have to be willing to lose some negotiations. If you’re not able to get the refund this time, try not to get discouraged. Take the necessary steps to avoid an overdraft fee in the future.
Do Overdraft Fees Hurt Your Credit Score?
On their own, overdraft fees do not necessarily hurt your credit score. Your score is calculated using the information in your credit report, which is a compilation of all of the debts and credit accounts in your name. A credit account is any account that involves a financial institution or creditor lending you money. As a checking account is a place for you to store your own money and not money borrowed from a creditor, the information in your standard checking and savings accounts will not appear on your credit report and affect your score.
However, if you overdraw your checking account and leave it in poor standing for a considerable amount of time, your financial institution may choose to forcibly close your account and send it to collections. Unfortunately, collections accounts do appear on your credit report and significantly impact your credit score.
If you do overdraw your checking account, it’s important that you bring your balance positive as quickly as possible or contact your financial institution to learn more about your options so as to avoid serious financial damage. More than just a bad mark on your credit report, a decrease in your score could result in difficulty securing loans and credit cards, as well as loss of access to certain banking services provided by Citibank. By losing access to banking services provided by Citibank, you may have difficulty opening a standard checking or savings account, or you may have to settle for accounts that come with a higher minimum balance and more fees.
Find Citibank’s full Client Manual for consumer accounts here.