An NSF fee — more formally known as a non-sufficient funds fee — occurs when you don’t have enough money in your account to complete a transaction. The bank will decline your transaction and issue you a fee for returning the item unpaid. NSF fees are sometimes mistaken for overdraft fees. While they are a type of overdraft fee, the difference is that banks will cover your transaction (rather than declining it) with overdraft fees. According to its website, USAA does not currently issue overdraft fees, only NSF fees.
Typical transactions that can trigger an NSF fee include:
For other types of transactions, such as ATM withdrawals and everyday debit purchases, USAA will decline the transaction and not issue you a fee if the bank determines that you do not have sufficient funds in your account.
USAA charges $29 for each item that is returned unpaid.
Two instances where you could incur an NSF fee are recurring debit transactions (memberships and streaming services) or automatic bill payments (utility bills and credit card payments). If you do not have sufficient funds in your account to cover these transactions, you could incur more than just an NSF fee from your bank — you could be on the hook for a late fee from your biller or service provider as well.
USAA limits the number of NSF fees to three on a single day.
If a biller or service provider attempts to charge your account again after a payment has failed, you may be subject to more than one NSF fee.
Overdraft protection can be a helpful tool if you’d like peace of mind knowing that your transactions can be covered even if you don’t have sufficient funds in your account. USAA offers overdraft protection free of charge in the form of a linked secondary checking account, savings account, or credit card. However, there are many things to consider before opting in.
A study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that opted-in accounts typically pay more on bank fees than accounts that aren’t opted in, so it’s important for you to do your research and determine if this is the best option for your financial situation before opting in.
Remember: You can opt into or out of overdraft protection at any time.
NSF fees are among the most common charges detected on Cushion customers’ accounts, but there are small actions that you can take to avoid them:
You can do everything in your power to avoid an NSF fee, but sometimes they’re inevitable. Luckily, there are ways to reclaim those charges after they’ve hit your account. By signing up for Cushion’s ⚛️ Fee Genius and optional 💭 Fee Negotiation add-on, you will have access to 24/7 account monitoring, alerts on bank and credit card fees, overdraft prediction when you’re in danger of overdrawing your account. We can even automatically negotiate fees with high refund probability on your behalf if you opt in.
If you choose to negotiate on your own, there are a few things that you can do to increase your chances of success.
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 NSF fee. I’m contacting you to see if you would be willing to refund this fee.”
Have your points of leverage ready
Have you been financially affected by COVID-19? Is this penalty a rare occurrence? Are you a loyal customer who has banked with USAA 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
No one is going to fight for your money but you — remember that when you head into your negotiation. You shouldn’t hesitate to press the issue if you initially hear “no.” That’s what your points of leverage are for. You also shouldn’t forget that the person on the other end of the line likely didn’t write the rules on refunds. Be kind and patient throughout the process.
Finally, you have to be willing to lose some negotiations. Try not to get discouraged, but do try to take the necessary steps to avoid NSF fees in the future.
Find USAA’s overdraft specifications here.
Cushion helps you waste less money, save more, and live a financially healthier life. We monitor your bank and credit card accounts 24/7, find and alert you about pesky fees, let you know which fees are negotiable, which banks are cooperative, and can even automatically negotiate on your behalf.* To date, Cushion has secured customers more than $11 million in bank and credit card fee refunds—and we’re just getting started.
*Cushion only negotiates fees with high refund odds. We cannot guarantee any negotiations, a regular frequency of negotiations, or fee refunds—your bank makes the final call.