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Consumer Advisory: Take action to protect your Economic Impact Payment if your account is overdrawn

If you are one of the millions of people who have received stimulus payments or will soon receive another round of payments (also known as Economic Impact Payments or EIPs), there may be steps you can take to ensure you have the full benefit of those funds by protecting them from bank and credit union setoff if your account is overdrawn.

Background

Economic Impact Payments are meant to help individuals and families reduce the financial burden from the COVID-19 pandemic. You may get an EIP via direct deposit, check, or prepaid debit card. Banks and credit unions may employ a variety of methods to ensure their customers have access to the full value of their EIP funds, even if their accounts are overdrawn due to fees or purchases. Some states have even taken action to prohibit financial institutions from using EIPs to cover overdrawn account balances.

In rare cases, some banks and credit unions have and may permanently forgive overdrawn account balances or issue paper checks for the full EIP amount to consumers with overdrawn accounts. Yet more frequently, financial institutions have issued temporary provisional credits in the amount of the overdrawn account balance. This provisional relief credit was temporary, and the credit was taken back after a specified period of time. Thereafter, customers once again owed the bank or credit union the value of the original negative balance. If you received a temporary relief credit, you should have received an email or letter with additional information.

Consumers have submitted complaints to the CFPB about the use and revocation of such provisional credits.

Take these steps if a negative balance is preventing you from accessing your full EIP

If you think your bank or credit union will take or has taken a portion of your EIP to cover money you owe to the bank or credit union -- call them. If you legitimately do not owe the money, you should make them aware. Each financial institution has its own policies, but many are willing to work with customers who have been financially impacted by COVID-19. If they offer you a temporary credit, ask them to explain how it works and when you’ll have to pay it back. You can use our guiding questions to talk to your bank or credit union about this issue.

Find the account that’s best for you

If you’re worried about paying too many bank or credit union account fees, there are steps you can take to avoid them. If you find yourself regularly incurring fees, it may be time to reconsider the kind of account you have. Many banks and credit unions across the country offer safe, low-cost checking and savings accounts that may better fit your needs . Even if you’ve had past difficulties managing a checking account, you may still be able to access the banking services you need. Having an account that better fits your needs can help you avoid fees and keep more of your own money.

If you run into trouble, submit a complaint

Having a problem with a bank or credit union account, or other financial product or service? You can submit a complaint and we’ll forward it to the company and work to get you a response. Submit online at consumerfinance.gov/complaint or by calling (855) 411-2372.

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