I got my bank to waive $74 in overdraft fees with a 5-minute phone call

1 week ago 19
  • I forgot to cancel an automatic subscription on time and was charged two overdraft fees of $37 each.
  • I called my bank to see if they could waive both fees — and it worked.
  • Some banks will waive overdraft fees if you give a good reason.

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It's the day before payday. Just when I thought I'd budgeted everything to a tee and had my ducks in a row, I was charged a subscription fee for a dental care delivery service that I forgot to cancel.

They charged me twice for two different products, which resulted in two overdraft fees totaling $74. An overdraft fee occurs when you don't have enough money in your bank account to cover your purchases.

In the past, when I got hit with overdraft fees, I would just curl up in bed and stay in a depressive funk, canceling all my plans with friends because I was too embarrassed to share my situation. This time, after years of tending to my internalized shame and guilt of experiencing poverty and homelessness, I decided to take action.

The first step was to see if it was too late to cancel the subscription order that put me in the red. Thankfully, the company was able to cancel the order and issue a refund. Still, I was left with two overdraft charges on my checking account.

A friend suggested calling my bank

Next, I called a few friends to vent about my situation. In my experience, dealing with debt and poverty is incredibly isolating. It can make you feel like you're the only one who has ever overdrafted your account in the history of humankind, and that you should be ashamed to talk about it because it's all your fault.

Again, I've done a lot of emotional work around my debt and relationship to money, which helped me pick up the phone and call a friend immediately to talk about what was happening.

A friend suggested that I call my bank just to see if there's anything they could do for me. I instantly thought, "There's no way that that's going to work." But what did I have to lose?

The phone call took 5 minutes — and it worked

I called my bank and explained my situation. Luckily, they were able to see that the company that charged my account had also posted a refund. The sweet lady on the customer service line said she could waive both of the overdraft fees on my account.

She also let me know that my bank, OneUnited, the largest Black-owned bank in America, waives up to three eligible overdraft fees per year for its cardholders. This isn't a policy written anywhere online, and they were pretty vague about which fees were "eligible" to waive. But it's a policy nonetheless.

After doing some research, I realized that many banks might waive overdraft fees if you call them right away and explain the situation, especially during the pandemic. I also learned that, in 2019, big banks collected more than $11 billion in overdraft fees — roughly 10% of their annual revenue — and that overdraft fees disproportionately affect people experiencing poverty and people of color.

At the end of the day, I needed that $74 more than my bank did, and I'm glad I advocated for myself.

Leo Aquino (they/he) is a Spending & Saving Reporter. Before joining the Insider team, they covered relationships, sexual wellness, beauty, fashion and more, always uplifting stories of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. You can reach Leo at laquino@insider.com. Learn more about how Personal Finance Insider chooses, rates, and covers financial products and services » Sign up to get Personal Finance Insider's free email newsletter in your inbox »

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