Overcoming Overdrafts

If you've ever bounced a check, read this.

In the galaxy of annoying fees, overdraft charges are among the most irritating-and hardest to avoid. A study by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. found that three-fourths of banks automatically enrolled customers in overdraft programs and then charged as much as $38 each time they goofed. All told, overdraft fees provided $37 billion in revenue to banks in 2008, according to economic-research firm Moebs Services.

The Federal Reserve Board announced new rules on overdraft fees November 12, 2009. The regulations will require that banks ask your permission to enroll you in an overdraft program -- beginning July 1, 2010, for new accounts and August 15 for existing ones. If you decline, your bank cannot charge you a fee if a single ATM withdrawal or debit-card purchase would overdraw your account.

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Senior Reporter, Kiplinger's Personal Finance