Did you mail a cheque only to be notified that it bounced? Or perhaps you tried to buy something with your debit card, and when you checked your online statement later, you were shocked to find a negative balance. You just spent more money than you have, so what do you do to fix it?
First, don’t panic. It’s not a fun situation to be in, but it happens. Follow these tips to get back in the black as soon as possible:
The consequences of an overdrawn account depend on your bank’s specific policies. If you have opted-in to overdraft protection, then the transaction you were trying to make will still go through because your bank will cover the amount. In this instance, your bank will charge you an overdraft fee, which will likely be around $33. If you don’t have overdraft protection, though, then you may be charged an NSF fee (nonsufficient funds fee) that is a similar amount, but your card will decline, or your cheque will bounce.
Overdrawing your account now and then isn’t the end of the world if you can pay the fee, but relying on overdraft protection too often could result in your bank terminating your account. It may also report you to a debit bureau that may make it more challenging to open a new chequing account in the future.
Plus, it may not be your bank who takes action against you if you’re in the red for too long; services you pay for may cancel on you if they don’t receive payment in time.
Those are a few examples of consequences, but what should your next steps be?
This should be obvious, but it’s worth repeating: don’t spend any more money with the overdrawn account. It’s understandable if you have essential expenses coming up, but don’t use the account at all, if possible. Check on your upcoming subscriptions or auto-payments that could put your further in the red. Only once you have replenished your accounts’ funds should you resume spending.
Keep in mind that if you don’t have a backup source of money, then your bank will automatically use your next deposit to cover your negative balance. Your negative balance likely includes the fee, so factor in this change for your monthly budget.
You probably guessed this one, but replenish your account as soon as possible. Don’t let it remain negative for too long, or your bank may charge you extended overdraft fees, which can accumulate quickly. Use your savings or another backup account to bring your overdrawn account back up to zero, preferably higher.
If you don’t have any other sources of money to make your checking account positive again, then consider borrowing from someone you trust, picking up a side-gig, or selling items you don’t need.
Another option is to use Earnin, which allows you to access your income on time if your bills are due before your paycheck arrives. Pay cycle delays may have been the reason you overdrew your account in the first place, so next time, you can use Earnin to take out up to $100 per day, $500 per pay period, and avoid paying overdraft or NSF fees. Earnin then deducts the amount you used from your paycheck once it’s deposited.
You have to opt-in to overdraft protection, but if you aren’t sure whether you have it or not, it’s possible you signed up for it without realizing what it is. Though you’ll know when making a debit card purchase immediately (the card will decline if you don’t), double-check with your bank if you realize you are about to overdraw your account with a written check. In this situation, you have time to contact your bank and the recipient and void it before it’s deposited. Likewise, look for an NSF fee on your account so you can pay it before you plan next month’s budget.
If you attempt to make a transaction that overdraws your account, contact your bank’s customer service center and find out if they can remove any fees that will put you in further debt. It never hurts to ask, and the worst thing they can say is no. Bank representatives may be even more inclined to help you out if you have been an outstanding customer in the past or if you explain your situation to them.
You can connect various apps to your bank account that will notify you when funds are running low (including the previously mentioned Earnin). This way, you’ll know how much money you have in your account before you attempt to make a purchase with non-sufficient funds, and you can avoid an NSF or overdraft fee altogether.
Overdrafting your bank account can be alarming, but here are strategies you can use to get back in the black quickly and (hopefully) avoid paying additional fees.
Please note, the material collected in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as or construed as advice regarding any specific circumstances. Nor is it an endorsement of any organization or Services.