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My bank/credit union charged me a fee for overdrawing my account even though I never agreed to let them do so. What can I do?

For one-time debit card transactions and ATM withdrawals, banks and credit unions cannot charge you an overdraft fee unless you opt in. However, banks and credit unions are allowed to charge you overdraft fees when the bank or credit union pays a check or certain recurring electronic payments that would have overdrawn your account, even if you did not opt in.

Some banks may also allow you to opt-out of overdrafts for checks and other types of payments. However, consumers that decline overdraft coverage for checks or ACH transactions may be charged a non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee from the bank or credit union, which is generally the same amount as an overdraft fee. In addition, declined payments to merchants may trigger a returned item fee from the merchant.

If you had an account open as of July 2010, your bank or credit union may have sent you paperwork asking you to opt in to allow overdrafts on debit card transactions and ATM withdrawals. If you opened a new account since then, you may have signed a document authorizing overdraft protection when you opened the account.

If you are enrolled in a fee-based debit overdraft program, you can change your mind at any time. Just notify the bank or credit union that you don’t want debit overdraft coverage. If you do not believe you’ve authorized debit overdraft protection, and the bank or credit union charges you a debit overdraft fee, you may file a complaint.

If you have chosen not to enroll in a debit overdraft program, the bank or credit union will decline ATM or debit card transactions when your account doesn’t have enough funds to cover them, and you will not be charged a fee when this happens. Your debit overdraft program enrollment should not affect whether the bank or credit union will allow you to overdraw your account on check or recurring electronic payment transactions, or the overdraft fees you pay when you do.