Research published in 2014 found that just 18% of U.S. checking account holders pay 91% of all bank overdraft fees.
Now a survey of these so-called "heavy overdrafters" is shedding new light on the demographic characteristics of Americans who spend hefty amounts on bank fees.
Heavy overdrafters are considerably younger than the U.S. adult population, according to a survey published Wednesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
They are also more likely to be Hispanic or African-American, they tend to have lower incomes, and they are more likely to rent their homes, the survey found.
The results were based on a phone survey of 304 adults who reported paying $100 or more in overdraft fees during the past year.
"The average heavy overdrafter lost nearly a week's worth of pay," said Joy Hackenbracht, a research officer at Pew.
While it is no surprise that these consumers have relatively low incomes — after all, they are paying overdraft fees because they do not have enough money in the bank — the survey aims to quantify that income gap.
Pew found that 67% of heavy overdrafters have an annual household income of less than $50,000; 48% of the U.S. population fell into the same income bracket.
The age disparity was also sizable. Sixty-eight percent of heavy overdrafters are either millennials or members of Generation X, compared with 54% of all U.S. adults, according to the survey.
In 2014 research, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found some of the same general trends. The CFPB is expected to propose new rules on overdraft fees later this year.
Pew is a longtime advocate for reform of overdraft fees, and the group used its latest research to reiterate its policy recommendations.
Options recommended by Pew include making the fees proportional to either the bank's costs or to the overdraft amount, and limiting banks from charging more than six overdraft fees in a 12-month period.