An overdraft is always bad news. Discovering that your account has a negative balance can lead to a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, especially if the event is unexpected. But there's hope: You may be able to fix the overdraft before you are charged one of the bank's dreaded fees. Some banks allow you a certain amount of time to correct the overdraft before they assess a fee.
Confirm that your account is overdrawn. Log on to your account and navigate to your online transaction page, or phone the bank's automated account activity line. For both, activity is updated daily. Check debit card, EFT, monthly fee and other charges to see if a duplicate transaction led to the overdraft. Check also for any fraudulent transactions that may have occurred.
Phone the bank. If your account is legitimately overdrawn, ask about the bank's overdraft correction policy. Some will refrain from charging a fee if a customer brings the account to a positive balance within 24 hours or by the close of processing for the banking day. If an overdraft occurs over the weekend, you may have until Monday evening to fix it, as many banks process weekend activity the evening of the following business day.
Make a deposit. If you have funds on hand, add to your account enough money to return it to a positive balance Even a balance of $0.01 is enough to forestall overdraft charges.
- If you do discover a duplicate or fraudulent transaction, inform the bank right away. The institution might give you a temporary credit while it investigates the error.
- Be familiar with your bank's overdraft rules. Some will not charge a fee if the overdraft is less than $1.
- Do everything you can to avoid overdrawing your account. Fees may be as high as $35 per transaction and can quickly add up. If you are charged a fee, ask the bank -- by phone or in person -- to waive the fee. Some may relent, especially if you are a long-time customer and rarely, if ever, overdraw your account.
D. Laverne O'Neal, an Ivy League graduate, published her first article in 1997. A former theater, dance and music critic for such publications as the "Oakland Tribune" and Gannett Newspapers, she started her Web-writing career during the dot-com heyday. O'Neal also translates and edits French and Spanish. Her strongest interests are the performing arts, design, food, health, personal finance and personal growth.