It’s no secret that banks love to make money by charging fees that come out of left field – every year, they make billions off of overdraft and insufficient fund fees charged to customers. Sometimes, there’s no way out of a charge, since your account’s terms and conditions explicitly state their policies on dipping below the account minimum and overdrawing. But there are some moments when you might be able to get out of a fee, even if you do technically owe your bank money. Whether it’s your checking or savings account that drew the fee, it’s always possible to contact with your bank and negotiate. You actually have more leverage than you might realize – the last thing the bank wants is to lose your business, especially if you have been doing business with them for several years. They will always take your complaint seriously.
If you’ve recently been charged a bank fee that you don’t agree with, be it an overdraft fee or a monthly service fee, there are several ways for you to challenge the bank’s decision. You can go to a branch of the bank to speak in-person with a representative, you can call their customer service line, or if you’re strapped for time, you can use the Secure Messaging feature on their website to talk online. No matter what method you choose, we’ve provided some tactical advice on how to approach the matter:
Let Them Know You’re Loyal
Start the conversation by letting the bank know where your allegiances lie. Introducing yourself as “a loyal customer of your bank” will serve as a polite reminder that you have patronized their business for some time, and that the bank stands to lose your patronage if they don’t handle the situation properly. If you’ve had the account for more than two years, you’ll want to subtly emphasize the fact that you’ve been working with the bank for awhile. Similarly, having a business account could be a great asset in negotiations, as it shows that you’re a dependable and valued source of revenue.
Make sure to remind them later on in the conversation that “As previously mentioned, I do want to keep my existing relationship with your bank” to really drive the point home. The bank needs to know what is at stake.
Address the Fee
Once you’ve introduced yourself as a loyal and valued customer, specify the amount and date of the fee: “I recently had the opportunity to review my account. It appears that I was charged a [service or overdraft] fee on [this date].” This will help the bank representative take a closer look at your account information and know exactly what you’re talking about.
Compare Other Banks’ Policies
The fact of the matter is that your bank’s policies might not be the best out there. Before contacting your current bank, you might want to do some research on their competitors’ charges and fees, and see how much they would have charged you in the same circumstance. In addition to showing you the options you’ve got, this will also give you the chance to show your current bank how serious you are about the possibility of terminating your account.
Once you’ve clearly established your desire to stay with your current bank, be sure to bring up the policies you’ve researched. If you’re being charged a monthly service fee on a checking account, for instance, let them know that you’re “aware that a number of other banks offer free checking accounts that do not charge any monthly fee.” This will make it clear that you’re aware of your options.
Throughout the conversation, it’s important to let the facts do the talking instead of making explicit threats or demands. Once you’ve told the customer service representative about your circumstance, there’s no need to repeat yourself or tell them why you deserve a refund in exhaustive detail. Remember – most customer service representatives have limited authority, meaning that many don’t even have the ability to grant your request. Be patient as you talk to them, and be sure to ask more open-ended questions, such as “How can you help me?” in lieu of yes/no questions like “Can you waive this fee?”
Once you’ve finished stating your case, you can wrap up the conversation by requesting that the fee be waived: “I write to ask you to waive the fee for this month and, if possible, for previous fee charges as well. I appreciate your assistance in this matter. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.”
If, despite your best efforts, the customer service representative does not waive your fee, you can request to speak to a supervisor. Once you get them on the line, you’ll want to use the same script you used for the representative to make sure that their supervisor knows exactly what’s going on – often, they’ll pick up the line without any context. Chances are good that the supervisor will give you the same verdict as the representative, but it’s always worth a try.
Even if you don’t get what you want when you contact your bank, this conversation might be a great turning point in your financial life. Perhaps, after this conversation, you come to realize that it’s time to switch to a new checking account, or to open another bank account. Take a look at our article on how to close a bank account and switching banks. There, you’ll get a better idea of what to look for when searching for the right bank.