Some of the largest U.S. banks have worked to reduce customers' chances of incurring overdrafts. Research firm Moebs Services reports that 52 percent of banks with $50 billion-plus in assets have what is called a "de minimis" balance, or an overdraft threshold. For example, an account holder who overdraws by $6 at a bank with a $8 de minimis will not have to pay a fee.
The overdraft threshold ranges from $1 to $50, but more than a quarter of national banks use the national average of $7.40 as the de minimis amount. Six years ago, by comparison, fewer than 1 percent of banks had a de minimis balance in place. Additionally, about two-thirds of big banks today limit how many times a customer can incur overdraft fees in one day. These caps range from two to 12 fees daily.
The protections arose following a series of consumer lawsuits over wrongful overdraft charges and new federal regulations that require consumer consent for overdraft services. Bank of America eliminated overdraft completely after spending $410 million in 2011 to resolve a related case, and JPMorgan Chase stopped charging overdraft fees for transactions under $5 after paying $110 million in a 2012 settlement.
Overdraft changes have also been encouraged by increased competition from Wal-Mart, T-Mobile, and other companies. The competitors are entering banking territory by offering prepaid debit cards that can be used to pay bills, make purchases, and deposit checks.