When a check bounces — insufficient funds — the overdraft fees follow, typically around $34 a pop.
No more at Albuquerque-based U.S. Eagle Federal Credit Union, which has one branch in Santa Fe.
U.S. Eagle as of Oct. 20 stopped charging overdraft fees on all checking accounts.
U.S. Eagle CEO Marsha Majors believes it is the first financial institution headquartered in New Mexico to eliminate overdraft charges. U.S. Eagle is the only New Mexico credit union without overdraft charges, said Dan Mayfield, until recently spokesman for the Credit Union Association of New Mexico.
U.S. Eagle already had suspended overdraft fees last year during the pandemic. Majors decided to make the move permanent.
“The timing is right to do this,” Majors said. “Getting rid of overdraft fees is the right thing to do, and it speaks directly to our brand promise of people mean more.”
Rosina Lowance, who handles inventory and distribution to Nambé’s eight retail stories, paid overdraft fees two or three times in the last year on her U.S. Eagle account.
“I think it’s great,” Lowance said about the fees being cut. “It helps me from digging a deeper hole than I am already in. [When a check bounces], then I have to come up with more funds to cover it.”
Alliant Credit Union, which eliminated overdraft fees in early August, is the only credit union included on national lists of financial institutions that have no overdraft fees. Nearly all the others are online banks or investment brokerages that offer checking accounts.
Fewer than 20 institutions are commonly mentioned on these lists.
“Overdraft fees are among the most controversial bank fees and have been a topic of public debate in recent months,” Forbes magazine wrote this year.
Americans paid $12.4 billion in overdraft fees in 2020, down from $17 billion in 2018, according to a Financial Health Network report.
U.S. Eagle has typically collected $1.5 million to $2 million per year from the estimated 10,000 to 20,000 members charged overdraft fees of the credit union’s 86,000 members. U.S. Eagle has nine branches in New Mexico and 1,391 members in Santa Fe.
U.S. Eagle didn’t charge a fee after the first overdraft, but subsequent overdrafts resulted in fees of $29 or $33, said Anneliese Elrod, U.S. Eagle’s chief operating officer.
Elrod added that 25 percent of U.S. Eagle’s members have “modest means.”
Income from other product services will offset the loss of overdraft fees, Majors said.
“We have considered this even before the pandemic,” Majors said. “We talked about it periodically. We started to hear from larger financial institutions that are taking that leap.”