If You Overdraft for the First Time, Ask for the Fee to Be Waived (56/365)

Whenever I encounter a fee that I don’t feel I should have been charged, I will call and find out the details of that charge and whether or not it can be removed.

The same is true for the first time I make an error and incur a charge due to my own mistake. I call up the company, apologize, discuss the situation, and ask for the fee to be waived.

Why would they do that? Simply put, if companies are willing to waive the fees, I’m much more likely to remain a customer of that company. Most companies are aware of this and are quite willing to waive a small fee in order to improve their standing – and likelihood of repeat business – with a customer.

I’ll give you a clear example of this. I’ve been a customer of U.S. Cellular for many years. They have stellar service in the areas I’m at most frequently and I’ve never had any issue with their customer service.

However, the biggest reason I’ve stuck with them over the years is that whenever I’ve seen a charge I didn’t understand on my bill – even if it should have been there – all it took was a phone call or a visit to one of their shops to get the charge resolved, and almost every time the charge was immediately removed from my bill. All it took was a simple request to remove the fee paired with some good customer services practices.

If You Do Overdraft for the First Time, Ask for the Fee to Be Waived (56/365)

This idea applies quite well to overdrafts. Often, a simple visit or phone call, an apology, and a request to eliminate the fee will work quite well, particularly if you’ve overdrafted for the first time. Here’s how to do it.

For starters, you’ll likely have two contacts to make. Most banks will charge you some sort of fee if you overdraft your checking account. Often, the business where you write a bad check will also charge you a fee. You’ll want to fix the fees you’re charged on both ends.

Contacting the businesses is straightforward. You’ll simply want to contact both businesse in turn, apologize for your mistake, and ask for any fees charged to you to be waived.

The likelihood of them granting your request is going to be based on several factors. One, do you have a positive history as a customer of that business? If you overdraft at a bank after having been a customer there for fifteen years, you’re much more likely to get a fee waived than if you’ve been a customer there for two weeks.

Another important factor is how you contact that business. A face-to-face visit is likely to carry more weight than a phone call, as it is much easier to deny such a request over the phone than it is when looking someone in the face.

It’s also important how you present yourself. Don’t demand that the fee be waived. No one enjoys confronting a demanding or angry customer. A polite, nice customer is much more likely to get a positive response. Rage rarely gets you what you want.

Regardless of whether your fee is waived or not, this experience will be key in determining whether you want to continue to use the business. If a bank quickly says no and dismisses you without a second thought, it’s a sign that you should think about moving your business elsewhere. On the other hand, if a business says that they understand, waives the fee, and tells you that they value your business, show them that you value that type of attitude by taking your business there. You vote for how businesses treat their customers with your dollars.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.