OBA President/CEO offers rebuttal to Oklahoman overdraft article

The Oklahoman published an article in its business section on Tuesday, Aug. 8, discussing overdraft fees (you can read the article, behind a subscription paywall, by clicking here).

OBA President and CEO Roger Beverage wrote a letter to the editor/op-ed piece in rebuttal to this story, explaining why banks have these overdraft fees and why they are necessary to the banking process.

Below is the content of his letter:

Letter to the editor 

By Roger Beverage
President and CEO

Oklahoma Bankers Association

The article appearing in Tuesday’s edition (Aug. 8) of The Oklahoman’s business section, authored by Suzanne Woolley, demonstrates she has no basic understanding of or knowledge about how banks work. This is particularly true as it applies to the majority of banks in Oklahoma. 

Woolley relies on a 2014 Data Point[1] report published by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Research. In that report, the authors based their conclusions on the results of their examination of some consumer experiences with overdrafts at a number of large banks. The authors concluded that overdrafts are a bad thing.

They are not.

The checking (payments) “system” has evolved over generations into what it is today: An electronic miracle fundamental to the nation’s economy. Transactions around the world moving commerce forward are literally approved or paid in seconds. 

One of the reasons the payments system used by banks and credit unions works is the basic assumption and belief by every party involved in the transaction that the check presented for payment is “good” and it will be paid. In the event funds are not sufficient, the check is kicked out of the system and treated as an “exception” item. It’s handled separately by a bank employee. 

Two things can then happen: The check is returned to merchant unpaid, and the bank or credit union charges the customer a small processing fee. The other possibility is the check is paid. When that happens, a second charge is levied against the check writer by the bank. That’s the basis for the “overdraft” charge. The writer of the previously-mentioned article in The Oklahoman totally ignores this process and what happens next.

Consumers face potential criminal charges for writing a “hot” check.  Sometimes consumers will write a check knowing there are insufficient funds currently available in their checking account at the bank (or credit union). Some consumers do this because they are going to get paid and will have enough funds to cover the check before it’s deposited. Normally, the consumer has every intention of making sure the check is honored. 

Sometimes, however, the consumer writes a check on an account he or she knows does not have sufficient funds to pay the check or, even worse, knows the account has been closed It doesn’t really matter what the intent is or was. In both cases, writing a “bogus” or “hot” check under Oklahoma law is an act of fraud and constitutes a crime.[2]

If the consumer is prosecuted, he or she will be required to come up with the funds to pay the check, AND to pay the court costs associated with the court’s process. If the merchant also charges a fee for processing a returned check, that fee will also have to be paid. These costs and fees may well exceed the amount of the check itself.

Other reasons customers value the protection of overdraft protection plans and having their check paid include avoiding the embarrassment, lost time, hassle (and other charges) for having their check (or electronic payment) returned to the merchant. If the check bounces, in the future the merchant may simply refuse the consumer’s check or electronic payment and insist on cash or a cashier’s check.  The product also enables consumers to bypass the bad check database and other similar records that can show up on the consumer’s credit report. 

Oklahoma banks are the “good guys.” They work with their customers every day to help them catch their dreams. The author of Tuesday’s article clearly demonstrates she doesn’t understand much about traditional community banks at all.

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