LAKE BLUFF, Ill. (8/11/10)--National retail merchants have boosted their nonsufficient funds (NSF) fees by 20% for checks consumers write that get returned for insufficient funds, according to a recent annual survey. Merchants now are charging a median fee of $30, compared with $25 in 2009, said Moebs Services, which conducted the study (alphatrade.com
Aug. 10). “This is the highest percent increase we have ever seen national and retail merchants charge consumers for writing a bad check,” said Michael Moebs, CEO and economist at Moebs Service, a national economic research firm, based in Lake Bluff, Ill. Retailers’ fees now surpass banks’ and credit unions’ median fee of $27 for an NSF, he said. The Moebs study mentions two contributors to the 20% price increase:
* Merchants, like their customers, are hurting because of the economic recession. The substantial fee increase offsets costs and creates a more profitable bottom line. * Merchants do not want to be bothered with the cost of processing paper checks, and prefer debit cards and e-checks.
With the higher NSF fees coming in the midst of the back-to-school and vacation seasons, consumers need to be cautious about how they manage their checking accounts, Moebs said. Consumers should verify they have available funds to prevent double-dip fees and hits to their FICO scores, Moebs said. The new regulations on overdraft fees go into effect Sunday. Also, whether or not consumers opt-in for overdraft protection, they should sign up to receive an e-mail or text message alert when their checking account balance falls below a certain amount, he said.