Consumer Reports: Do you need overdraft protection?

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is out with a new study finding consumers who opt in to debit card and ATM overdraft are still at risk of incurring exorbitant fees, despite recent regulatory changes. (WLS)

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is out with a new study finding consumers who opt in to debit card and ATM overdraft are still at risk of incurring exorbitant fees, despite recent regulatory changes. Consumer Reports has suggestions on how you can avoid overdraft fees or opt out from them altogether.

Overdraft fees can range from annoying to painful. For instance, with Wells Fargo and Bank of America they're $35. PNC charges $36.

Collecting overdraft fees is good business for banks and credit unions - generating an estimated $33 billion dollars a year.

"That's big money. And at least 2 large banks have been accused of using deceptive practices to get you to sign up according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Our advice: don't be pressured into getting overdraft protection. It's not mandatory," said Nikhil Hutheesing, Consumer Reports Money Editor.

Consumer Reports says you're better off declining overdraft protection altogether. Your transaction might get denied, but one study shows you'll save more than 20 dollars a month in checking fees.

Instead, sign up for text and email alerts that flag low balances. And link your checking to a savings account which can cover shortfalls. Either for free or a relatively small fee.

"We also recommend signing up for banking mobile apps so you can check your balance before you make that purchase," said Hutheesing.

That way you'll know before you swipe if you've got enough cash to cover the charge.

The CFPB also found the consumers who overdraw their accounts the most are those who are most financially vulnerable, carrying low bank account balances and with lower credit scores. If despite all your efforts you are charged the occasional overdraft fee, call or visit where you bank and ask for the fee to be waived. Banks and credit unions will often extend that courtesy to good customers.

All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2014. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not for profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit http://www.consumerreports.org

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