WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – For some people, overdraft fees are a frustrating inconvenience. For others, they pose crippling costs. Some lawmakers now want to change how they’re charged altogether.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney introduced legislation called the “Overdraft Protection Act.” The bill includes provisions to cap the amount and number of fees a bank can charge.
“My bill tries to cut down on these unfair and deceptive practices,” the New York Democrat said.
Advocates like Elyse Crawford-Hicks with Americans for Financial Reform say overdraft fees hit low-income families and people of color the hardest.
“Overdraft fees are paid the most by people who can least afford them,” Crawford-Hicks said.
Others say over-drafting is a useful service because it can function like a short-term loan. Paul Kundert is the CEO of UW Credit Union, which recently reduced their overdraft fees and put more limits on how they charge them.
“When prices are fair, we believe consumers do benefit from access to the credit provided by overdraft fees,” Kundert said.
Recently, major banks like Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Bank of America have made changes themselves, by reducing their overdraft fees or eliminating them altogether.
Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, says that demonstrates the legislation is unnecessary.
“The market is naturally, naturally taking care of the issue without government intervention. And we do not need more rules from Washington,” Williams said.
Because banks make billions of dollars in revenue from overdraft fees, George Mason University Foundation Professor of Law Todd Zywicki argues the proposed changes would cost consumers.
“We’ll see higher bank fees, we’ll see higher minimum monthly deposits as basically insurance against over-drafting and we will see a loss of access to free checking,” Zywicki said.
Lawmakers like Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., are promising to continue pushing for the reforms.
“How can we perform such an abusive and predatory practice that punishes people simply for being poor?” Pressley said.