10 Ways to Get Overdraft Fees Waived

Banks make a huge sum of money from fees each year, and one of the most annoying charges that customers frequently pay is an overdraft fee. This happens when you use your debit card for a purchase but you don’t actually have the available funds to pay for it. Rather than declining the sale, your bank essentially lends you the money, but for a hefty cost.

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To give you an idea of what you’ll pay for each overdrawn transaction, here are the fees for some of the most popular banks in the U.S. as of April 2019. You might be surprised at how expensive they are.

  • Bank of America: $35
  • Chase: $34
  • Wells Fargo: $35
  • Citibank: $34
  • Capital One: $35
  • TD Bank: $35
  • PNC Bank: $36
  • SunTrust: $36
  • US Bank: $36

Don’t automatically accept these fees as an inevitable part of the banking system. Paying for them can become extremely costly when you don’t realize you’ve overdrawn your account and rack up several fees for each transaction. Instead, we’ll show you how to get overdraft fees refunded by trying one or more of these 10 simple steps.

#1: Prepare a Script

It’s easy to get flustered when you’re on the phone with a trained customer service rep from your bank. Prepare a script so you remember exactly what you want to say get those overdraft fees waived. This helps you speak clearly and remember each of your talking points, which we’ll talk about more below.

You can also write out different variations of how you’ll respond based on what the customer service rep says to you. Practice saying your notes out loud to practice sounding natural.

#2: Ask Politely

You may be tempted to take an aggressive approach when you call to ask to get your overdraft fees waived. Rather than start on the offensive, remain polite the whole way through. After all, at the end of the day, you’re dealing with another person who’s just trying to do their job. Treat them with respect throughout the whole conversation and they’ll be more likely to waive the fee for you.

Another tactic is to state your case, then ask how the rep can help you. Ending on this note puts the ball in their court to take action. It challenges them in some way to be solution-oriented, rather than just saying no right from the state. Work this line into your script so you remember to phrase your request as asking for help in an actionable manner.

#3: Reference Your Customer History

Another important component of your request to get your overdraft fee waived is your customer history. Hopefully, you’ve been a member of the bank for years and can use that to work in your favor. If this is the case, tell the rep that you’ve experienced great customer service throughout the time you’ve been a customer. This sets the expectation that they have a reputation to live up to. Even if you’re a relatively new customer, state the bank’s position as a leader for service as a reason for why you switched.

You can also mention how many accounts you have with the bank, or whether you’re a business customer in addition to being a personal customer. Banks don’t want to lose your business because it’s costly for them to replace you as a customer. Remind them why they want to keep you and you’ll improve your chances of success.

#4: Don’t Make Overdrafts a Habit

It can be difficult to repeatedly ask to get an overdraft fee waived. That’s why it’s important to really make an effort not to habitually overdraw your account, which is easy to do when using services where you can shop and pay at a later time. A customer service rep is much more likely to grant your request if it sounds like a one-time favor. But if they pull up your account and see that you frequently rack up penalties for overdrafts, they probably won’t have much sympathy this time around.

Asking to get your fee waived is usually just reserved for accidents that happen once in a blue moon – not when you don’t manage your money well on a day to day basis. Make an effort to steward your money well so that when it does happen, you’ll get the help you need.

#5: Repeat Your Complaint

When you lay out your request and get an automatic “no,” don’t be afraid to try again. As the old saying goes, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” Many people note having success with repeating their request until they get a different answer. Sometimes bank customer service reps are trained to automatically respond in a certain way, even if they have leeway in how they can act.

If you are persistent enough, you may get them to crack and decide to break the mold and waive the overdraft fee. It’s not outside their realm of responsibility, so don’t be afraid to keep asking.

#6: Express Your Frustration (Nicely)

Ultimately, customer service reps want to receive a good review, especially when there’s a survey at the end of the call. If your request is turned down, you don’t have to hang up right away. Tell them why you’re frustrated. This is a good time to reiterate your banking history and directly request their help in fixing the situation.

You can also give more information on why the overdraft happened. Maybe a paycheck didn’t hit your account as soon as you thought, for instance. You can accept responsibility while still being unhappy with the bank’s policy, especially when it comes to how long-term customers are treated.

#7: Call Back Later

If you still don’t have any luck getting your overdraft fee waived, hang up and call back later. Chances are, you’ll talk to a different customer service rep. This can help in a couple of different ways. First, they may be more sympathetic. Don’t cut corners; instead, remember to rehash your script outlining your history with the bank.

Another plus of speaking to a new rep is that some banks give their customer service teams quotas of how many times a month they can waive fees for customers. If your bank implements this policy, you may have talked to someone who already dismissed a lot of customer charges. A different rep may have more leeway in their ability to get a fee waived.

#8: Ask to Speak to a Manager

Once you’ve called back and still can’t get your fee successfully waived, ask to speak to a manager. Some customer service reps may not want you to go over their head and talk to their boss, and could be motivated to dismiss the fee right there. In other instances, the manager might just have more authority to approve your request. Escalating your request can help you get those fees waived, especially if you have more than one accumulated.

#9: Set Up an Account Transfer

If you’ve taken every possible course of action with no luck getting your fee refunded, you may simply need to change the way you bank. Avoid excessive fees in the future by linking your checking account to a savings account with the same financial institution. In the event of an overdraft, funds will automatically be transferred from your savings to your checking account in order to cover the costs.

You may still have to pay a transfer fee, but it will be significantly less than an overdraft fee with no account transfer in place.

#10: Decline Overdraft Protection

In case you don’t want to link a savings account to your checking (or if you don’t have much in savings), you can simply opt out of overdraft protection altogether. The downside to this choice is that your debit card will be declined if you overspend from your account. But if you habitually have trouble managing your money, turning off this service can save you a lot of cash in the long run.

In most instances, overdraft protection is a backup used on the rare chance you accidentally spend more than what’s in your account. For those who are still learning to budget well, not utilizing overdraft protection at all can be a good stepping stone to establishing long-term financial habits. Having that incentive to not have your card declined at check out can help you pay more attention to what’s happening in your checking account.

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Final Thoughts

No one’s perfect when it comes to banking; even the best financial management tools can fail you from time to time, leaving you with a costly fee taken out of your checking account. Luckily, you have plenty of resources at your disposal to create an effective strategy for getting overdraft charges refunded.

It may take a few moments of preparation, but as long as you’re not a habitual overdrafter, you have a strong chance of seeing that fee amount put back into your account. It’s also a good incentive to stick with the same bank for a longer period of time, since you’ll increase your chance of success if you’ve banked with them for a while.

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Grace Chen
Article written by

Grace Chen

Grace Chen has 10 years of experience in the financial field and have been delivering excellent business content through her articles.

Grace graduated from the Haas School of Business, University of California and is currently the chief editor of Communicate Better where she has written and edited thousands of articles published in various media.