Less than one-fourth of consumers have signed up for debit card overdraft coverage from banks, and 70% say they want to continue to exercise choice in their debit-overdraft options, according to a report from Consumers Union.
Among the 1,014 U.S. adults who responded to the telephone survey the Yonkers, N.Y., nonprofit organization's Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, 22% said they opted to have their bank cover debit and automated teller machine overdrafts for a fee. Of those respondents, 55% said they had experienced an overdraft within the previous six months.
Banks were required by Aug. 15 to ask customers whether they wanted to opt in to overdraft protection programs or risk having their transactions declined at the point of sale if their accounts lacked sufficient funds. The average bank account overdraft fee is $27, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
"Now that banks are no longer allowed to automatically enroll customers into high-cost debit overdraft loan programs, the vast majority of consumers are saying 'no thanks,' " Pam Banks, Consumers Union senior policy counsel, said in a Nov. 16 press release.
The survey suggests sharply fewer consumers are opting in to receive debit overdraft coverage compared with the findings of some other organizations. The American Bankers Association in September, for example, said the results of a survey it conducted involving 1,010 consumers Aug. 14 to 15 suggested that 46% of consumers had opted in to their bank's overdraft protection programs, or had planned to do so.
Consumers Union said many banks use "misleading" marketing tactics to trick consumers into signing up for costly overdraft services, despite the rule changes.