How to Avoid Overdraft Fees at Your Bank

BANKING - CHECKING ACCOUNTS
Monitoring your account balance regularly and setting up low balance alerts are just a couple of ways to help you avoid overdraft fees.
Updated March 19, 2024
Fact checked
Man withdrawing money from an ATM

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

When you make a purchase or withdrawal from an account that doesn’t have enough money in it to cover the transaction, your bank will usually decline the transaction unless you’ve opted in for overdraft protection coverage.

While overdraft protection can protect you from the embarrassment of having your transaction declined, it may also cost you money. Overdraft fees can be over $35 per transaction, which can put a dent in your bank account.

Let’s look at options to avoid overdraft fees and keep that money in your account, including using one of the best checking accounts that doesn't have overdraft fees.

In this article

Key takeaways

  • Overdraft fees are charged when you don’t have enough money in your account to cover transactions, but the bank or credit union pays the transaction anyway.
  • You must opt-in for overdraft coverage.
  • Overdraft fees can cost over $35 per transaction.
  • The best banks don’t charge overdraft fees.

What is an overdraft fee?

An overdraft fee is a fee some banks and credit unions charge if the amount of a purchase or withdrawal exceeds the amount of money that you have in your bank account. Unlike non-sufficient funds, where the charge is simply declined, your bank will cover the overdraft transaction but charge you a fee for doing so. Those fees are often about $35 per transaction, according to the FDIC.

Not all financial institutions offer overdraft protection, but if they do, you generally have to opt in for the coverage. If you don’t opt in for overdraft protection, you could also face fees for non-sufficient funds (NSF). NSF fees are charged when an item is returned unpaid because your account is overdrawn.

5 ways to avoid overdraft fees

Overdraft fees can add up and cause significant strain on your finances. Thankfully, there are things you can do to help you avoid overdraft charges.

1. Monitor your bank accounts

If you monitor your checking account on a regular basis, you’ll know how much you can spend or withdraw from your account without getting overdrawn and incurring a fee. For example, if you only have $100 in your account, you shouldn’t spend $150 at the grocery store. Your bank may charge you an overdraft fee. That $150 in groceries will end up costing you $185 if your bank levies a $35 overdraft fee (or even more if you end up with multiple overdraft fees).

It’s especially important to monitor your account balances if you have set up automatic payments for your bills. It’s easy to forget an automatic payment is coming up and accidentally overspend.

Tip
Some of the best budgeting apps could be a big help in monitoring both your bank balances and your spending.

2. Opt out of overdraft coverage

Overdraft protection is voluntary coverage, which means you have to opt in to get it. While it may sound like a good idea to save you the embarrassment of having a purchase declined, if you don’t monitor your accounts and find out you are incurring a lot of overdraft charges, the coverage could end up costing you more than it's worth.

3. Set up alerts for low balances

Most financial institutions enable you to set up alerts that notify you when your account balance gets low. You can set the balance amount at which the bank sends you a notification via either email or text. For example, you set your account’s low balance alert to automatically notify you when your account’s available balance reaches $100 or lower.

4. Link to another account

Some banks will let you connect a savings or money market account to your checking account to cover charges or withdrawals over what you have in the account. Many banks don’t charge for making the transfer. But if a bank does charge a fee for this service, those fees are typically lower than overdraft fees charged.

Your bank may also offer an overdraft line of credit to cover overdraft charges. However, you should be aware that this line of credit is similar to having a credit card, and you may be charged interest on top of any fees that are charged.

5. Choose a bank without overdraft fees

More and more banks are choosing not to charge overdraft fees to their customers. So if your overdraft charges are getting out of hand, you may want to consider moving your money to a bank or other financial institution that doesn’t charge overdraft fees.

Banks without overdraft fees

If you are looking to transfer your money to a financial institution that doesn’t charge overdraft fees, here are four options to consider.

SoFi Checking and Savings

SoFi is one of the best online banks that offers high-yield checking and savings accounts. It offers overdraft coverage of up to $50 without fees. However, you will need to have a monthly direct deposit of at least $1,000 to be eligible for the overdraft coverage.12 Member FDIC.3

Visit SoFi | Read our SoFi review 

Chime® 

Chime is not a bank but a fintech company.4 It doesn’t charge many of the fees traditional banks charge, including overdraft fees.5 With Chime’s SpotMe® Fee-Free Overdraft service, eligible members are covered up to $200 without fees or interest on debit card purchases and cash withdrawals. To be eligible to enroll in the coverage, you must have a monthly deposit of at least $200. SpotMe limits start at $20 and can be increased up to $200.6 Chime is FDIC insured through its partner banks, The Bancorp Bank and Stride Bank.

Visit Chime | Read our Chime review 

Capital One 360

Capital One 360 offers one of the best checking accounts that doesn’t charge overdraft fees. However, overdraft transactions are usually declined unless you opt-in to its no-fee overdraft service. You can also set your account to automatically transfer funds from a Capital One savings or money market account to cover overdraft transactions with no fees. Member FDIC.

Visit Capital One | Read our Capital One 360 review 

Discover 

Discover’s Cashback Debit checking account has no overdraft fees. You can set up overdraft protection by automatically transferring funds from a Discover savings or money market account. Plus, with the account, you can earn up to 1% cashback every month on purchases up to $3,0007. Member FDIC.

Visit Discover | Read our Discover review

FAQs

Is there any way to avoid overdraft fees?

Yes, there are several ways you can avoid overdraft fees. You can regularly monitor your account and set up notifications for when your account balance dips to a certain amount. Some banks also enable you to automatically cover overdraft charges from a connected savings or money market account for no fees.

Another option to avoid overdraft fees is to opt out of your bank's overdraft protection service altogether. While this means your purchases may be declined, it can save you from paying costly overdraft fees.

Can I get an overdraft fee waived?

In some cases, you may be able to get your bank to waive an overdraft fee. Whether the bank is willing to waive an overdraft fee depends on the bank. You also may have a better chance of getting a waiver if you don’t regularly make overdraft transactions.

Bottom line

Overdraft protection sounds like a good thing to have, in theory. However, if your bank charges you hefty overdraft fees, that coverage could cost you more than it actually helps you.

Thankfully, there are options you have to avoid overdraft fees. You can bank with a financial company that doesn’t charge overdraft fees or closely monitor your account and set up automatic notifications so you know when your account dips below what you may need to cover your expenses. Or, you could opt out of overdraft protection coverage altogether and set up a savings or money market account to cover any overdraft charges you may make.

And many of the best banks don’t charge overdraft fees.

Discover®️ Cashback Checking Benefits

  • Earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month7
  • No minimum deposit, no minimum balance, and no account fees
  • Access your paycheck up to 2 days early with Early Pay
  • 60K+ fee-free ATMs and make cash deposits at Walmart stores nationwide

Author Details

Danielle Letenyei Danielle Letenyei is a professional writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. Her interests include budgeting, travel, credit cards, insurance, and creative side gigs. She hopes her work on these topics can help others navigate the intricate landscape of personal finance.

Want to learn how to make an extra $200?

Get proven ways to earn extra cash from your phone, computer, & more with Extra.

You will receive emails from FinanceBuzz.com. Unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy

  • Vetted side hustles
  • Exclusive offers to save money daily
  • Expert tips to help manage and escape debt