But overdraft fees are concentrated among those who can least afford it. An FDIC survey of 39 banks found that 84 percent of insufficient fund transactions were charged to less than 10 percent of accountholders.
Lower-income customers were more likely to incur an overdraft fee and were hit more often with multiple fees, the FDIC said.
Wallis said her organization has recommended that some of its clients close their accounts and operate on a cash-only basis after being billed with repeated overdraft fees.
Arkansas-based Arvest Bank, Oklahoma’s third-largest deposit holder, hasn’t raised its overdraft fees in about a decade, bank spokesman Jason Kincy said. Arvest’s fees, which range from $15.93 to $17.43, cover the bank’s expenses related to the service, Kincy said.
"Most bank customers would be surprised to know the variation of overdraft fees,” Kincy said. "When a customer is in a situation where they’ve incurred an overdraft fee, we’re not looking at that as an opportunity to take advantage and charge as large a fee as we can.”
Gary Simpson, chairman of commercial bank management at Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business, said federal regulators may adopt new policies dealing with the ways that banks levy their fees or even the amount of fees charged.
Banks make money through interest paid on loans and through a variety of fees and investments that produce income. In a tough economic environment, noninterest income helps boost banks’ bottom lines. Moebs reported that overdraft income outstripped profits last year at nearly half of U.S. banks and credits unions.
"If you look at the noninterest income of most commercial banks, the highest fee income would be on overdrafts,” Simpson said.
Overdraft fees have become a "hot-button issue” for many Oklahoma community bankers, Simpson said. "It is a controversial topic,” Simpson said.
"Hopefully, there can be some kind of arrangement where banks provide some type of overdraft service and consumers see it as reasonable.”