So far, I’m underwhelmed with the industry’s online marketing response to the new opt-in debit card OD protection regulations. I expected to see new pricing models transforming small overdrafts into a value-add for debit card users, rather than the onerous penalty they had become over the past few years.
On the positive side, the elimination of OD charges for small transactions is a good first step. Three of the five FIs in our mini-survey have dropped fees on ODs of less than $5 (PNC and GTE Federal) or $10 (U.S. Bank). And Wells even makes a bit of a game out of it: Customers who cover the OD during the same day incur no fee.
And Bank of America has just thrown in the towel on the whole notion, running full-page ads (p. A11 in today’s WSJ; Overdraft Control landing page) saying they’ll just deny any attempt to overdraw via debit card. The retail giant joins Citibank and ING Direct, which already followed the same approach.
But financial institutions are missing an opportunity here. Take Wells Fargo, for example. When I ran across the bank’s new homepage ad for debit card OD protection (see first screenshot), I expected to click through and find a novel take on the new federally mandated opt-in requirement (see second screenshot).
Wells does a good job explaining how the new rules benefit customers (the two steps forward):
- The bank’s website copy is understandable and nicely outlines the lower-cost credit line, and savings account transfer options are offered
- The toll-free number to sign up is prominent, although where’s the online signup option?
- Great to see online and mobile balance-tracking tools offered up to help avoid overdrafts in the first place
- My favorite: Customers are allowed to cover the overdraft during the same day and avoid the charge
But much of that uptick in consumer goodwill is negated when you get to the pricing:
- Debit card overdrafts are $35 each, with a maximum of 4 per day, or a $140 daily penalty if you opt in and make a mistake coffee-shop (or more likely bar-) hopping some weekend.
In a spot check of other financial institutions, it’s clear that Wells Fargo is far from alone in the $30 per item price range:
- US Bank will charge $10 per overdraft of $20 or less and $33 for all others; it will charge for up to 3 ODs and 3 returned items for up to 6 per day; there’s a $25 fee if you don’t pay back within a week, but no charge for any item that results in less than $10 in total negative balance.
- Fifth Third Bank will charge $25 for the first overdraft each year, $33 for the next three, then $37 each after that; maximum of 10 per day; $8 per day after the third day it’s not paid back; no OD charge if negative balance is $5 or less.
- PNC Bank charges $36 per item up to 4 per day, plus $7/day the account is overdrawn for a maximum of 14 days.
- GTE Federal Credit Union is charging $29 each, with no charge on under-$5 items (blog post, Facebook post)
I just don’t see customers being too pleased with the price/value here. Wouldn’t customers, and shareholders, be better served with a value-based pricing strategy? How about $5 each for an under-$100 mistake? Or follow the telecom model and sell debit card overdraft protection as a $4.95/mo subscription.
By my simple math, a million customers paying $5/mo is a whole lot more revenue than a few thousand paying $35 a pop. Then there are all the side benefits: customer goodwill, reduced customer service headaches, positive word-of-mouth, and the PR/marketing value of making debit overdrafts into a real service.
Debit card OD link on Wells Fargo homepage (13 July 2010)
Landing page (link)
Click to enlarge
Note: Upper-right graphic from Horizons North Credit Union, which is charging $25 per item, with no limit on the number. The opt-in ad is a huge part of its current homepage (inset, click to enlarge).