How To Talk Your Way Out Of Overdraft Fees

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Nothing ruins a day like checking your bank account to find that you were hit with overdraft fees. These annoying (and often hefty) fees can take a huge chunk out of your account, pushing your balance far down into the negatives and turning the next payday into a game of “catch up.” The next time you pull up a statement and see an overdraft fee on there, don’t panic - a single phone call to your bank could have these fees erased, saving you big bucks from your next check. Banks reverse these fees all the time for customers who know how to talk to them, and today’s guide will guide you on your call and help you achieve satisfaction.

Have A Good Reason In Mind Before You Call

It is important to realize that overdraft fees are big money-makers for banks, and not many will be thrilled about waiving them away for no reason. Even though you may feel like a it’s unfair that an innocent mistake turned a $5.00 hamburger into a $45.00 expense, you should keep in mind that the bank will still see this as negligence on your part, and not foul play on theirs. This is why it is important to have a convincing reason for the bank to reverse your charges.

A good one to use (so long as it is true) is that it is your first ever overdraft fee and you’d like it refunded as a courtesy. Many banks will accept this and quickly refund you without much hassle. Other convincing reasons include a check you deposited before the charge not clearing in time, long-term service to the bank, and that you never authorized the ability to overdraft.

Be Realistic About Your Expectations

Negotiating is a two way street, and you you shouldn’t always expect to get 100% of your wishes granted by the bank. For example, if you call in looking to get 3 overdraft fees removed, and the service representative agrees to waive two of them, you should consider your negotiation a success. Of course you should always ask about the third, but if they are already ready and willing to cut your fees by 75%, you’ve done well and saved yourself quite a bit of money. It is policy for some banks that representatives literally cannot erase more than a certain number of fees for a customer, just as a used car salesman could not ever give you a car for free no matter how strong your gift of gab may be.

Be Direct And Firm

When you call the bank’s customer service line to discuss the fee, it is important that you set the tone of the discussion. Wait until you have calmed down about the fees and call with a clear mind and a respectful tone - do not raise your voice or berate the agent. State your expectations clearly and confidently, perhaps opening with “I see these overdraft fees on my bank statement and I would like to get them removed. How can you help me today?” followed by your convincing reason stated confidently and succinctly.

This statement communicates that you are aware that the representative has the ability to remove them, and you are calling with the express expectation that he or she will. Do not show signs of being nervous, unsure of yourself, or belligerent, as these emotions will get you nowhere with service agents - especially the last one.

Never Make It Easy For Them To Say No

During the course of the conversation, never ask questions that make it easy for the bank to end the conversation with a quick and decisive no. Personal finance guru and best-selling author Ramit Sethi talks about getting out of overdraft charges and strongly recommends staying away from phrases like

* “Are you sure?”

* “Is there anything else I can do?”

* “You really can’t help me out?”

These are statements that have the potential to end your negotiations quickly and decisively. “Imagine if you were a customer service rep and someone said this,” Ramit says. “It would make your life easier to just say “no.”

Don’t Stop At No

When talking to a bank, remember that no doesn’t have to be the end of the conversation. Try rephrasing the question several times until you get the answer you’re looking for. For example, if you say “I’d like to get these fees removed,” and are told no, don’t give up - instead try rephrasing as “I understand your position, but I see these fees here on my statement and I want to know what the bank can do to help me out.”

If the representative is being unreasonably difficult, you can politely request to speak with a manager on duty, but be careful with this one. While it is a perfectly reasonable request to make, some people use it in a condescending, infuriated tone that causes the representative to warn the manager that you are being difficult and unreasonable. When you get connected, all the manager will be concerned with is getting you off the phone as quickly.

Inform Them That You Are Considering Leaving The Bank

No customer service representative wants to be the reason why a faithful customer decided to leave the bank. If you feel as though you are all out of options, Reader’s Digest recommends threatening to bring your business to another bank. They report that this strategy works so often because, in most businesses,”the cost of replacing you is five times the cost of making you happy.” This threat should carry some validity behind it, and if they staunchly refuse to work with you, you should be prepared to follow through. After all, why would you want to do business with a company who is staunchly opposed to meeting your needs?

Call The Corporate Offices

If you feel you aren’t getting any satisfaction with you your bank’s customer service line, consider making a call to the corporate offices and asking to speak to the CEO or similarly high-ranking executive. Most corporate offices for banks have a team of elite customer service representatives that will do just about anything to stop a call from going to the CEO, including reversing your fees. Readers Digest tells a story of a woman whose overdraft fees sky-rocketed to $1,040 after some trouble with balancing her bank account.

The woman’s mother was not able to get any satisfaction with the regular customer service team at Washington Mutual, so she called the office of the CEO and explained her situation to the representative who intercepted her call. Without much resistance, the bank erased almost all of her fees in a single call.

About the Author: Whitney Freestone is a freelance writer. Freestone is an experienced business and financial writer with areas of focus on how to find a refinance car loan.

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