Bank of America reverses fee policy

Associated Press / September 23, 2009

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NEW YORK - Bank of America Corp. said yesterday it would cap the fees it charges customers for overdrawing their accounts, backpedaling on the hikes the company imposed just this year.

Starting Oct. 19, Bank of America said, it will no longer charge overdraft fees when a customer’s account is overdrawn by less than $10 in one day. A $35 fee will still be levied if the account isn’t balanced again within five days.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank also will limit to four the number of times an overdraft fee can be charged on an account daily.

Just this year, the bank had raised that cap from five to 10. It also raised the fee this year for the first overdraft in a 12-month period to $35 from $25 - an increase that still stands.

Enrollment in the bank’s overdraft program is currently automatic for new customers, and opting out is possible only in limited circumstances, said Anne Pace, a Bank of America spokeswoman. But now customers will be able opt out, meaning that transactions will be denied at the register if customers don’t have enough money to cover a purchase.

Pace said the company didn’t have an estimate on how many people might opt out of the overdraft program, noting that many consider it a useful backup. Customers will need to visit their local branches to opt out. They will also be able to call, Pace said, but the appropriate phone number hasn’t yet been determined.

Pace said the company is responding to the “changing needs’’ of customers in the difficult economic environment.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. also will be overhauling its overdraft fees, a spokeswoman said late yesterday.