You’re Probably Paying Less in Overdraft Fees Than You Used To

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting short piece about overdraft fees today, including some facts and figures I haven’t seen before. Here are the trends between 2009 and 2013:

  • Average number of overdrafts per year: down from 9.8 to 7.1
  • Total overdraft revenue: down from $37.1 billion to $31.9 billion
  • Average overdraft charge: up from $27.50 to $30 (in 2013 dollars)

That’s a decrease of nearly a third in the annual number of overdrafts per checking account. This is likely because of new regulations, and banks have responded by raising the average fee in order to recoup some of their lost revenue.

Overall, this is a net benefit. The reduction in the number of overdrafts per year can probably be attributed to legal and regulatory actions that have reined in or flatly banned some of the worst abuses: clearing large payments first, refusing to let customers opt out of overdraft protection, slowing down payment credits, and so forth. These were the most outrageous fees, and eliminating them has helped consumers even if banks have partially made up for it with higher fees. In inflation-adjusted terms, the average person is now paying $213 in overdraft fees each year, compared to $269 in 2009. It’s a start.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend