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BofA considers new checking account that prevents overdraft: WSJ

The logo of the Bank of America is pictured atop the Bank of America building in downtown Los Angeles November 17, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

(Reuters) - Bank of America is considering a plan to introduce a checking account that curbs overdraft practices, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the bank's strategy.

The bank's plan will not allow customers to overdraw their balances at an automated teller machine or when making an automatic bill payment, the Journal said.

The removal of overdraft abilities would be one option customers could choose under a new checking account program BofA likely will unveil in the coming months, according to the paper.

It wasn't clear whether BofA is considering boosting fees as part of its checking account overhaul. Bank executives haven't made a final decision about the overdraft policy, the newspaper said. (http://link.reuters.com/nev83v)

Bank of America could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside of regular U.S. business hours.

If the plan goes through, BofA would be the first big bank to prohibit overdrafts on checking accounts, the Journal said.

BofA's move builds on its decision a few years ago to prohibit customers from overdrawing their account when using a debit card to make purchases.

In 2011, under pressure from customers, the bank reversed course and scrapped plans to charge a $5 per-month debit fee.

Many banks let customers overdraw their accounts in exchange for fees, typically $25 or $35. Critics say the fees disproportionately burden lower-income customers and others who often maintain low account balances.

A few years ago, more than two dozen U.S., Canadian and European lenders were named as defendants in a class-action suit accusing them of charging customers with excessive overdraft fees.

Bank of America paid $410 million and JPMorgan Chase paid $110 million to settle their portions of the nationwide litigation. Those settlements won final court approval in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

(Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore; Editing by Supriya Kurane)