How to Get Overdraft Fees Refunded

by Mike on February 8, 2010

Would you pay $36 for a cup of coffee?

Of course not, but that is what runs the risk of happening if your account becomes overdrawn. Banks and credit unions are charging between $20 and $35 for the “convenience” of allowing you to overdraft.


high fees mean that someone who overdraws their account at the ATM by $20, and is charged the median overdraft fee of $27, would incur an annual percentage rate of 3520 percent if they repaid the loan in two weeks. Even payday lenders don’t charge that much. –


The obvious course of action is to avoid overdraft fees altogether, but sometimes even the most cautious person can make a mistake.

The good news is, you may be able to get the fee (or fees) waived if you can stand some humble pie. The simple steps below assume the overdraft is your fault and not the fault of the bank or another institution withdrawing more money than authorized.


Identify the cause of infraction. Was it an automatic payment you forgot to record? Outstanding check? Didn’t account for ATM fees? Authorization hold? Plain old carelessness? Whatever the cause, know this before you pick up the phone. Being able to articulate the source of the problem increases your chance of success. Alternately, if you claim not to know why your account was overdrawn, this implies carelessness and irresponsibility. A customer service representative may not be motivated to help someone who isn’t motivated to help themselves.

Call the bank and ask them to refund the fee. Be polite & concise.

Example: Good afternoon, I just noticed an overdraft fee on my account. I didn’t realize there was an authorization hold on my account . I’d really appreciate it if you can waive the overdraft fee.
There are 4 parts to this statement:

1. Polite greeting
State the reason you are calling
Explain why it happened (BE BRIEF!) Use your research from step 1
State the requested action


At this point the customer service representative will look over your account. A little known fact is CSRs typically authorized to waive a certain amount of fees within a given time period. Some banks will waive 3 fees within a 12 month period…no questions asked. The stronger your account, the better chance you have of getting the overdraft fee refunded. I spoke with a bank associate from a major financial institution. I was told that when considering refund requests, they take the following into consideration: amount of non-sufficient funds (NSFs), payment history, history of balance, amount of deposits and other relationships within the bank (i.e. credit card, loans etc). Know where your account stands. There is truth to the phrase “knowledge is power”. If your account is in good standing you will probably have your fee refunded. If that is the case, thank the CSR and learn from your mistake. You’re done!

Sometimes, the CSR may tell you there is nothing they can do. At this point, reinforce your request:

Ex: I would really appreciate a good faith waiver. I’ve been a happy customer for quite some time. Would you mind reviewing my account to see if there is anything further you can do?


By asking the CSR to review your account, you have opened the door for them to change their minds. CSRs are people too, and spend a majority of their day being verbally abused by irate customers. Your patience and kindness can go a long way. A tactful reply and a good standing account may prompt a response in your favor. Hopefully by now you’re waiver request has been granted.

You may get a representative that doesn’t feel like helping you. It is easier for them to tell you “no” than process and notate a waiver. If you are still declined, thank the CSR for their time and say goodbye. If you know your account has a strong history call back later, you’ll be connected with a different CSR and repeat step 1. Another representative may be more willing to help you.

If you still don’t get a refund, you can do 1 of 2 things:

1. Cut your losses and learn from your mistake

2. If your bank is local, stop by and speak to a bank representative or branch manager in person


Whatever the outcome, the most important thing is to learn from your mistake and take actions to prevent overdrafts in the future. Also remember, an overdraft refund is not an entitlement. If they still refuse to issue a refund after your best efforts then move on!

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This is What Frugal Looks Like: Lakita from Personal Finance Journey — Almost Frugal
June 13, 2010 at 4:00 am

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 MKP November 20, 2012 at 9:43 am

Thanks! It worked! I was expecting I could get it refunded (bout 75% certain), since I had a spotless history, but this made me not nervous about doing it! 🙂

2 Mike November 20, 2012 at 11:15 am

Its amazing how many times you have only to ask nicely to receive what your after isn’t it. I feel a lot of times people stress how yelling and making a scene can achieve results.


3 Bethany Cousins May 24, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Thank you so much for this! In a weird mix-up, I also found my account hit with two $37 ISF fees at Citizens Bank. Your “I would really appreciate a good faith waiver. I’ve been a happy customer for quite some time. Would you mind reviewing my account to see if there is anything further you can do?” THIS WORKED! Although they only refunded one of the fees, I was quite happy with the fact that my account was credited $37. Thank you for your advice. I think if you do admit the fault was yours, but focus on having been a good standing customer for (in my case, 2 years) ____amount of time, there’s a chance that they will do something for you.

Thank you! Thank you!

4 Winfred Asch May 24, 2012 at 9:10 am

This is an awesome purse! It looks like old fashioned oil cloth, which has a retro charm. I went all out and got the elephant, and I’m thrilled that I did. Cute as can be. Stays on my shoulder perfectly, has a super sized outside pocket, and style galore. Love it!

5 A Cain November 21, 2010 at 10:35 pm

I went to my online banking system last week and noticed 12 unauthorized NSF charges on my account within the year. I called the bank and they refunded my account $180.00 but that was only 9 charges I have emailed them that I am not satisfied with the refund and that they still owe me 3 NSF refunds equaling $60.00. We will see how this goes. I admit that I have over withdrawn from time to time but how can a bank charge NSF to my account when I am not in the negative? This is what has been going on. Then it causes me to go into the negative because they have charged me NSF that they should not have. I bank at a Federal Credit Union. It just seems very fraudulent to me.

6 Bryan September 9, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Good info.

Keep in mind, however, that each bank is different. In many cases, banks use a refund matrix and it’s computer based. If that system says no, the CSR cannot override it without lying and calling it the bank’s fault…something they could get fired for. From their perspective, you’re not worth their JOB. In those cases you might have to speak to someone higher up.

7 PF Journey September 30, 2010 at 10:04 am

True. Thanks for that perspective. I’m certainly not endorsing CSRs lying or risk loss of job!

8 Guitar Tube Preamp May 27, 2010 at 1:51 am

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9 Jessie (Mom) May 13, 2010 at 9:31 am

Great info Lakita. I am truly proud and blessed to have you as my daughter. I am learning from you now . I read your pesonal Finance Journey and found it quite interesting. I should have been able to help you through your finacial struggle, instead I was dealing with my own and I still am. You truly are an inspiration and motivator for myself as well as others. I am on Board, I’m not sure when my journey will end but one day I will be debt free. I’ve made some of the mistakes you’ve made and more. Thank you for remembering my dream of owning a Bed and Breakfast. Keep up the good work.

10 PF Journey May 13, 2010 at 9:44 am

Hey Mom!

Of course I remember the B&B — one day!
Love you much!!!

11 PF Journey February 9, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Sounds great! Remember, anyone interested can sign up for email alerts or subscribe via RSS.

12 Awareness Home Funding February 9, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Hi Kita,
I just found your site and was very impressed. Thanks for the practical advice that still implies personal reponsibility. I will be watching for ways to tie in with information for our clients and friends.

13 PFJourney February 8, 2010 at 11:41 am

Hi Wil,

Thx for leaving a comment with your concern. It’s valid and the only reason there is just 1 line about avoiding fees is I already wrote an article on 7 ways to avoid them. It is linked in the article.

This should not be taken as an excuse to be careless but rather a possible remedy for a mistake.
.-= PFJourney´s last blog ..How to Get Overdraft Fees Refunded =-.

14 Wil February 8, 2010 at 10:59 am

While it is nice that the writer stressed being nice and acknowledging that the bank peep is a person to, I’m slightly dismayed that there was only one line about avoiding paying the fee. Simply, these fees are so high for two reasons. People will pay them, and most people will not spend the slightest amount of effort doing anything to avoid them.

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