When Peter Means returned to graduate school after a career as a civil servant, he turned to a debit card to help him spend his money more carefully.
So he was stunned when his bank charged him seven $34 fees to cover seven purchases when there was not enough cash in his account, notifying him only afterward. He paid $4.14 for a coffee at Starbucks ”” and a $34 fee. He got the $6.50 student discount at the movie theater ”” but no discount on the $34 fee. He paid $6.76 at Lowe’s for screws ”” and yet another $34 fee. All told, he owed $238 in extra charges for just a day’s worth of activity.
Mr. Means, who is 59 and lives in Colorado, figured employees at his bank, Wells Fargo, would show some mercy since each purchase was less than $12. In addition, a deposit from a few days earlier would have covered everything had it not taken days to clear. But they would not budge.
Banks and credit unions have long pitched debit cards as a convenient and prudent way to buy. But a growing number are now allowing consumers to exceed their balances ”” for a price.