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How to Get an Overdraft Fee Refund

By Brooke Vaughan // Updated January 18, 2022

Close up of man counting money
Courtesy of Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

Overdraft fees are frustrating. In 2020, U.S. consumers paid a total of $12.4 billion in overdraft fees. And according to the 2021 FinHealth Spend Report, overdraft fees negatively impacted low-income households the most. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of paying these bank fees. To escape the cycle, it’s important to understand what overdraft fees are and why you may be charged one. Then, you can do everything that you can to avoid them. In the event that you do get stuck with one, you can always ask your bank for an overdraft fee refund.

What Is an Overdraft Fee?

When you don’t have enough money in your bank account to cover an ATM withdrawal, debit card purchase, online payment, or transfer, you can overdraft your account. Instead of declining the transaction, the bank will spot you, allowing your bank account balance to go negative. When your bank account balance dips below zero, the bank charges you overdraft fees.

Many financial institutions require you to opt into overdraft protection in order to overdraw your account on certain types of purchases. These typically include one-off purchases, such as ATM transactions and everyday debit transactions.

However, you can receive overdraft fees if you overdraw your bank account on preauthorized transactions even if you haven’t opted into the program. Preauthorized transactions can include checks, recurring debit card transactions, ACH transactions, online or automatic payments, or other transactions that use your checking account number.

How Much Do Overdraft Fees Cost?

You can expect to spend $34–36 per fee. However, the cost of overdraft fees varies. Bank of America, for instance, charges $35 per overdraft fee.

Occasionally, your bank or credit union may only charge you overdraft fees if you overdraw your bank account by a certain amount. Bank of America specifies in its online fee guide that it will only charge you an overdraft fee if you make a purchase that overdraws your account by more than $1. If you pay for something and your balance only falls to -$0.50, you may not be charged an overdraft fee at Bank of America.

Read the Bank of America Overdraft Fee Guide here.

Depending on your overdraft protection status, you could pay different fee amounts. For example, if you are opted into overdraft protection and have linked your savings account to your checking account, your overdraft fees may be less costly.

In some cases, you may have to pay more than a single overdraft fee if you overdraw your account. Some banks charge extended overdraft fees. This is an additional fee that your bank will charge if your account balance remains overdrawn for an extended period of time. You may also receive insufficient funds fees if you attempt a transaction without enough money in your account but the bank declines the transaction.

How to Get an Overdraft Fee Refund

It may seem like a hassle, and may even be intimidating. But believe it or not, banks refund overdraft fees all the time. If you gather the necessary information and prepare your argument, you’ll increase your chances of getting the refund.

Prepare your personal information

Your bank will need to verify your identity. Prepare your:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Social security number
  • Debit or credit card number

Introduce yourself

Start with: “Hello. My name is [your name], and I recently received an overdraft fee while using my card. I’m contacting you to see if you would be willing to refund this fee.”

Identify your points of leverage

At this point, it’s possible your bank may say that they can’t offer a bank fee refund. Don’t get discouraged. They often can if you have a compelling argument.

  • Have you been financially affected by COVID-19?
  • Are you a loyal customer?
  • Have you banked with the institution for a long time?
  • Do you have multiple accounts with the bank, such as a savings account, business account, or another personal checking account?
  • Do you make regular deposits?
  • Do you rarely overdraw your account?


You can use any of these arguments to convince the representative to waive overdraft fees.

Woman calls her bank to ask for an overdraft fee refund

Things to Remember When Asking for an Overdraft Fee Refund

You’ve prepared all of your information. Now you should keep a couple things in mind during the negotiation.

Be polite

A little kindness goes a long way. The representative that you’re speaking with likely didn’t write the rules on fee refunds. If you ask nicely, the representative is probably willing to give you the refund. In their eyes, they’d much rather keep you as a happy customer than risk losing you to a competing bank.

Be persistent

Don’t hesitate to press the issue if you initially hear “no” — that’s what your points of leverage are for. If you’ve prepared correctly, you should have several arguments ready.

If you continue to hear no, you can escalate the issue to a manager. When you ask to speak with someone who has more authority, be polite. If you ask rudely, you may hurt your chances of getting bank fee refunds ever again.

Success can depend on the representative that you speak with. Try calling back a few days later to speak with someone new. Once again, politely let them know why you deserve a refund, and see what happens.

Be prepared not to get a refund

Finally, you have to be willing to lose some negotiations. Banks refund fees at their own discretion. Plus, the more you overdraft, the less able you will be to get overdraft fees refunded.

You won’t win the full refund amount every time. You might get a partial refund or no refund at all. Try not to get discouraged, but do take the necessary steps to avoid overdraft fees in the future.

How to Avoid Overdraft Fees

Cushion detects every kind of fee on customers’ accounts. Overdraft fees are one of the most common, along with ATM fees, credit card interest charges, and late payment fees. Luckily, there are small actions that you can take to prevent overdraft fees.

Keep an eye on your bank account balance

This might seem obvious, but it can easily fall by the wayside. Banks are not required to notify you if you’ve overdrawn your account. Your bank may charge you a bank fee, and you might never know. They could also charge you multiple overdrafts in a single day (talk about a headache). If all of your bills come out at once, you could find yourself hundreds of dollars in the red.

Sign up for Cushion’s ⚛️ Fee Genius to know whether you are in danger of overdrawing your account. Our system scans your accounts 24/7, finds and alerts you about bank fees, identifies which ones are negotiable, and predicts when you will get hit with a charge. Our ultra-smart algorithm detects when your account is nearing negative territory based on your transaction history and spending patterns.

Person clicks phone screen to set up notifications

Sign up for low-balance notifications

If you don’t want to manually check your balance, sign up for bank notifications that alert you when your balance is low. Most mobile banking apps offer this feature and allow you to set the threshold yourself.

Not so fast — this doesn’t give you a pass to neglect your bank account. You should still monitor it regularly. This will help you identify mistakes, like if someone has stolen your debit card number or if you’ve been charged more than once for a bill.

Low-balance notifications won’t let you in on insights like these. Monitoring your account for mistakes is a great way to put money back in your account so that you don’t overdraft.

Transfer money ASAP

Get money into your account as soon as possible. Do an immediate transfer from another checking account or savings account at the same bank. You can also deposit cash into the account in-person at a branch or via ATM.

Some ATM deposits may not be available immediately, so it’s important to know your financial institution’s policy. Bank-to-bank transfers and other mobile payment services can also take several business days to complete. However, this can be an alternative solution if you do not need the money immediately.

Contact your billers and bank

If you expect to overdraw your account, you should do what you can to protect your money. Contact your billers or creditors to let them know about your situation. If you’re experiencing financial hardship, they will likely work with you to modify your payment plan.

Another easy way to make sure you have money in your account when it’s time to pay the bills: Align your bills with your paycheck.

Next, consider contacting your financial institution. If you can let your bank know what’s going on, they might be willing to work with you. This can help you avoid overdrafts, and then you won’t have to ask for a refund for your overdraft fees at all.

When you’re on the phone, focus on your value as a customer. If anything, this call will show your bank that you are a reliable customer who keeps a close eye on your account and cares about your financial health. That can go a long way.

💡 Banks don't typically report overdraft fees to the credit bureaus. Therefore, they will not affect your credit score. In most cases, the only information that affects your credit score is what comes from lenders, credit card companies, or other companies that handle credit accounts.

Manage your spending

You’ve moved some money and contacted your bank and billers if necessary. Now it’s time to take a look at your spending habits.

In the short term, you could reduce the amount of money that you spend eating out. You could also find coupons and discounts. Long term, you can reduce financial waste by negotiating credit card interest rates, essential bills, or eliminating unnecessary expenses.

If your account has a low balance, try only paying with cash. This will force you to rely less on plastic and consider what is really important for you to buy.

Decide whether overdraft protection is right for you

Overdraft protection helps if you’d like peace of mind knowing that you can withdraw money or make a purchase even if the money isn’t currently in your account.

Courtesy or standard overdraft coverage allows you to overdraft on ATM withdrawals and debit card purchase. However, your bank will charge fees for each transaction. There are other forms of overdraft protection that allow you to go into the red for a fraction of the price. This could include linking your account to another checking account, credit card, or line of credit. While you may still incur a fee, the fee is typically about half of what a standard overdraft charge would be.

Opting into overdraft protection may seem to be the default for many account holders. However, not opting in could save you a ton of money. If you try to purchase something but it’ll send you into overdraft, the purchase will get declined.

Consider not opting in if you don’t have a lot of essential bills to pay, you’re trying to manage your spending, or you’re an avid user of mobile banking and text message alerts. Remember that you can opt into and out of the program at any time.

Man in suit hands person stack of money

Why Do Banks Charge Overdraft Fees?

Simply put: Banks charge fees because they can. You need the money, and banks are able to provide the funds. Essentially, financial institutions are able to penalize you for the convenience of having access to money even if it’s not currently in your account.

Banks make money in two major ways: interest and bank fees. In early 2021, the New York Times reported that the Federal Reserve planned to leave interest rates low for months or even years to aid economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic. To make up for lost revenue, banks would hike fees (either in cost or volume).

So why do banks charge overdraft fees? First, because they need to — for them. Second, because they can — at your expense.

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.

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