The financial impact of the coronavirus may be dropping your checking account balance uncharacteristically low, putting you in danger of being socked with overdraft fees from your bank. With your finances in flux, you surely don't need your bank to pile on new debt.
However, though some lenders are offering temporary relief to consumers on mortgage or other loan payments, banks generally aren't waiving overdraft fees -- though it might help to ask.
Overdraft fees -- charged when a payment or withdrawal goes through for more than you have in your account -- average about $33, and banks may impose them four to seven times a day.
Among financial institutions contacted or checked by U.S. News on Monday, only Ally Bank said it is automatically eliminating overdraft fees -- for all customers for the next 120 days. Bank of America will also skip the fees, but customers must call and request it.
[Read: Best Checking Accounts.]
Check on Automatic Bill Pay
Many consumers pay recurring bills such as auto loans or streaming services via the automatic bill pay option that their bank offers, says Jim Triggs, CEO of Money Management International, a Sugar Land, Texas-based nonprofit debt counseling organization. Cancel the automatic monthly bill pay option and memberships to avoid overdraft fees.
Many banks or credit unions have programs where they can assist consumers during times of hardship, he says.
Reach out to your bank and other lenders to discuss your financial situation now instead of waiting, says Greg McBride, senior vice president, chief financial analyst for financial data company Bankrate.
"If you anticipate financial difficulties, either due to a drop-off in income or an outright job loss, the best thing to do is to reach out to your lenders and financial institution and let them know your circumstances," he says. "They have more flexibility when you're being proactive than may be the case after the fact."
As banks and other businesses adjust to the coronavirus-related closures mandated by state and local government, consider calling customer service numbers because some banks have limited services at branches or reduced hours in an effort to protect their employees and customers.
The following banks are waiving overdraft fees for consumers due to the financial impact of the coronavirus.
-- Ally Bank: Ally is waiving overdraft fees for all customers for the next 120 days.
-- Bank of America: The bank may refund overdraft, nonsufficient funds and monthly maintenance fees if a customer requests it.
[Read: Best Savings Accounts.]
List of Bank Policies
These banks are not saying they are generally waiving overdraft fees, but some are encouraging consumers to call them. Expect an extended hold time when you call.
-- BBVA: Christina Anderson, senior vice president, director of external communications, says, "We are currently assessing the needs of our customers and are addressing deposit account fee waivers upon request and on a case-by-case basis."
-- Capital One: Laura DiLello, senior communications manager, says: "We also understand that there may be instances where customers find themselves facing financial difficulties. Capital One is here to help, and we encourage customers who may be impacted to reach out so we can discuss and help find a solution."
-- Chase: "When customers call us with financial challenges related to coronavirus, our customer service specialists have been helping them with things like waiving fees, extending payment due dates for cards, auto loans and mortgages, or increasing credit lines for consumer and small business customers," says Paul Lussier, vice president, external communications, digital and technology.
-- Citibank: The bank is only offering fee waivers on monthly service fees and on penalties for early withdrawal of certificates of deposit, according to a written statement.
-- HSBC: HSBC may waive both overdraft and returned check fees if customers call.
-- PNC Bank: "We are encouraging our customers who have been impacted by the coronavirus and are experiencing a hardship to please contact us directly to discuss the best options for meeting their needs," PNC said in a written statement. "Specifically, PNC is prepared to assist those directly impacted customers by waiving or refunding fees associated with deposit accounts or lending products, including credit card and mortgage. For customers who are concerned about making consumer or business loan, credit card, or mortgage payments, we have a variety of programs available to assist them." Overdraft fees would be included among those fees, says Marcey Zwiebel, senior vice president and director, corporate public relations.
[Read: Best CD Rates.]
-- USAA: "USAA Bank has a number of special programs in place to help our members, including consumer loan payment assistance, credit card payment assistance, mortgage payment assistance options and more, depending on their situation," USAA said in a written statement. "We encourage our members to reach out so we can determine the best options for them during this challenging time."
-- Wells Fargo: "We are working directly with customers on a case-by-case basis to address their needs, and we are currently providing assistance, including fee waivers -- which may include overdraft-related fees -- and payment deferrals for customers who contact us," says Jim Seitz, senior communications manager, deposit products group and operations.
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