The news: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is looking into how overdrafts affect consumers and plans to use the information to identify financial institutions (FIs) for further examination.
Overdraft scrutiny: The CFPB is seeking information on FIs’ overdraft practices, including how they assess their fees, the length of their grace periods, the thresholds above which fees are assessed, and their caps on the number of fees charged.
The trend: Although overdraft fees are highly unpopular with consumers, their total value is declining in the US. Overdraft-related service charges were $2.12 billion in Q1, down 9% year over year (YoY), per S&P Global Market Intelligence data.
In response to the regulator’s crackdown, a host of US banks, including KeyBank, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan, have taken steps to eliminate non-sufficient fund fees and to cut consumers’ exposure to overdrafts.
The big takeaway: The CFPB’s aggressive clampdown on overdraft fees is continuing, and banks that end or reduce these in anticipation of further regulation or to appeal to consumers will take a hit to their bottom lines.
As inflation surges and US cost-of-living concerns deepen, overdraft fees will remain a contentious topic. Whatever action banks take, they must ensure that fees are transparent and manageable. At the same time, they should consider whether dropping the fees altogether could bring benefits, like attracting new customers, that outweigh the dent in their profits.