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Bank of America says overdraft fee revenue fell 90% since last year

·2 min read
An ATM machine at a Bank of America office is pictured in Burbank

By Elizabeth Dilts Marshall

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bank of America said on Wednesday overdraft fee revenue for June and July was down 90% from last year, as a result of lowering the fees charged to customers whose account balances go negative.

The second-largest U.S. bank was one of several to have reduced or eliminated overdraft fees over the past year after the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) put a spotlight on the charges, saying banks made more than $19 billion from them in 2019.

Since December, Capital One Financial Corp has said it would stop charging overdraft fees entirely, while the largest U.S. bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, said it would give customers more time to bring their accounts back above $0 before charging them fees.

Bank of America took a different route, cutting overdraft fees to $10 from $35 starting in May. It also eliminated the $35 non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee customers pay if a check or automatic payment causes their account balances to go negative, and it eliminated the $12 fee charged when customers use overdraft protection services.

Since implementing the changes, the bank says overdraft fees contributed just 0.4% of its total second-quarter revenue, compared with 1% of all bank revenue in 2021 before the new policies were put in place.

The Charlotte, North Carolina-based lender didn't put a figure on its lost revenue. It reported total revenue of $22.7 billion in the second quarter this year and $89.1 billion for the full year of 2021.

Holly O'Neill, Bank of America's president of retail banking, said regulators have responded positively to the new policies. "They've been very supportive of the way we are heading," O'Neill said.

While the bank will continue to monitor consumer behavior, it doesn't feel pressure from regulators to make more changes, she added.

Bank of America has not completely eliminated overdraft fees because the fees serve as incentive for customers not to overspend, O'Neill said.

"There are very good reasons not to eliminate the fee entirely," O'Neill said. "You really want to (encourage) clients to spend money they currently have in their account (rather) than money they don’t have."

(Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts Marshall; Editing by Lananh Nguyen and David Holmes)