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What Are the Best Tips for Reclaiming Bank Charges?

Jessica Ellis
Updated Jan 26, 2024
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Reclaiming bank charges can be a fairly straightforward or immensely complicated process, depending on the nature of the charges and the attitude of the bank. In the United States, a 2009 Supreme Court decision made it nearly impossible to reclaim excessive charges for actions in which the account holder is possibly at fault, but reclaiming bank charges due to a bank error may still be possible. Some of the best tips for reclaiming bank charges include handling the matter immediately, filing both written and oral complaints and requests, and learning about the legal requirements for banks in a particular region. In rare cases, polite behavior and a sympathetic explanation may be enough to get a refund for some charges.

Bank charges may occur for many different reasons. In some cases, they are due to account holder actions, such as over-drafting, missing payments, or bouncing checks. In these cases, bank charges are often legal or, even if unfair, nearly impossible to recover. If a bank charge occurs due to a bank error, however, customers may be able to obtain a refund in a fairly simple manner. Determining who is at fault for the issue is usually the first step necessary for reclaiming bank charges.

If an account holder discovers that a charge has been made erroneously, the first step is to call or visit the bank at once. In general, it may help to speak with a manager or supervisor, rather than the initial employee that answers the call or arrives at the teller's window. Junior employees may not have the authority to re-issue erroneous charges, or may not be acquainted with the proper procedure for handling these claims. Be certain to ask for the manager's name and contact information when speaking to him or her, so that he or she can be alerted should any complications ensue.

When reclaiming bank charges, it is important to bring or include evidence that shows that the charge was an error on the bank's behalf. Bank statements that clearly show the actual state of the account can be very helpful when disputing an overdraft or bad check charge. Be sure to keep copies of all necessary documents, and include a digital copy with any emails about the issue. If the issue is managed over the phone or in person, follow up the conversation with a written summary and copy of all documents, so that a clear record of the complaint exists.

Different regions have different laws about reclaiming bank charges. In some places, a bank is legally required to take prompt action once a charge is shown to be erroneous. If a bank is refusing to refund an error, consider consulting a lawyer about possible legal action. In some cases, even a simple letter from an attorney that threatens legal action may be enough to change the tune of a recalcitrant bank.

Before moving onto threats and lawsuits, however, it is important to approach reclaiming bank charges with a reasonable attitude. On the initial phone call to the bank, customers should try to be polite and friendly, to avoid alienating workers who may able to help them. Even in cases where the charges are the fault of the customer, a worker may be moved to issue a one-time refund if the customer provides a reasonable explanation for the mistake. While sweet reason may not always result in a refund, an initially pleasant approach can occasionally save everyone involved a lot of trouble.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for WiseGeek. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
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Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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