2020 was undoubtedly one of the most difficult financial years since the last recession and it has left Americans scrambling to find alternative loan options. Even still, banks are charging consumers for everything from overdrafts to ATM fees — racking up nearly $4.2 million in bank fees from March to September 2020 according to customer data from a sample of 25,000 people. As a reminder, bank fees include things like overdrafts, insufficient funds (NSF), returns, monthly maintenance, and ATM charges. Overdraft fees only include the overdraft charge, NSF fees, and return fees. 

We analyzed a sample of 25,000 Possible Finance customers to find out just how fees trended in 2020, and the results may have you double-checking your account balance.

Key Takeaways:

What Banks Charge the Most Fees? 

Of the 25,000 person sample, 47 percent incurred overdraft fees. On average, banks charged $324 in overdraft fees. The following banks charged the highest overdraft fees per person from March 2020 to September 2020. 

Banks That Released Statements to Waive Overdraft Fees During COVID-19

Since the pandemic outbreak, federal legislation has urged financial institutions to waive overdraft fees and related bank fees. Bank responses have varied, some offering to waive fees on a case-by-case basis. Of the top 10 banks charging the highest fees, the following five have explicitly offered Coronavirus-related waivers or refunds.  

Despite statements about relief options for their customers, these banks are still among the highest for bank and overdraft fee charges since March

How Has COVID-19 Affected Overdraft Fees?

Nearly half of low-income adults have reported struggling to pay their bills since the start of the pandemic, a third of which have dipped into savings or retirement accounts to maintain stability. Even still, the average amount of overdraft fees charged has steadily increased month-over-month since March 2020.

Fees for customers have routinely increased each month, despite news of the pandemic becoming more dangerous as time passes.

What Factors Affect Overdraft Fees?

Of our sample, nearly $3.8 million in total overdraft fees has been paid from March 2020 to September 2020, or nearly $146,154 per week. Day of the week is a key factor for when overdraft fees most commonly occur. The most fees are collected Monday’s (24 percent) followed by Tuesday’s (23 percent) and Wednesday’s (16 percent). 

Surprisingly, those who are charged the most in overdraft fees earn an average of $266.25 more per month than those who aren’t charged the fees, likely because lower-income individuals tend to use online banking services, which don’t typically charge bank fees.

Your Fees as Purchases

For the 76 percent of people who are charged bank fees, they will pay an average of $220 over the course of six months. For the entire year, these customers will pay $440 in bank fees.

bank-fees-as-everyday-purchases

For the cost of these total annual fees the average American could purchase:

How Much Do Banks Make From Your Fees?

earnings-made-by-overdraft-fee-recipients

Since March 2020, almost $3.8 million were collected in overdraft fees alone, contributing to the $4.2 million in bank fees from the 25,000-person sample. 


If those numbers are representative of the entire U.S. population of 328.2 million people, and we assume 1 in 5 people have overdraft fees with 74% of those individuals incurring a penalty, that would mean that since the start of COVID-19, banks have made a projected $7.2 billion in overdraft fees alone.

How to Avoid Overdraft Fees

Most people have faced an overdraft at one time or another. Luckily, there are simple ways to avoid the fees that are associated with the slip-up. 

best-practices-to-avoid-overdraft-fees

Banks make a significant portion of their profit from bank and overdraft fees. While the fees can often be avoided, sometimes the need for funds cannot. If you find yourself in a pinch for funds, consider an alternative payday loan with fair rates when you’re in the face of unexpected expenses.

Methodology: Data from 25,000 randomly sampled Possible Finance customers and their bank fees from March 1 to September 24, 2020.

Sources: CDC | NCS | New York State | NCBI | ABA | U.S. Energy Information Administration | National Diaper Network