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Get 78 Bucks Back from Bank of America

By M. Gwertzman, sbup

If you’ve been socked with one of those pesky overdraft fees on your Bank of America account over the last few years, you might be getting some cash back under a proposed settlement.

Filed in 2004, Closson v. Bank of America is a class-action lawsuit that alleges that Bank of America (Quote: BAC) intentionally engaged in “misconduct” through its practice of charging certain fees on debit card transactions, in conjunction with deceptive accounting practices and “unconscionable” customer agreements. Under the terms proposed in the settlement, BofA would pay a total of $35 million to a fund; eligible class members would receive a payment of  up to $78, depending on how many total claimants join in. Those who think they’re due for some payback need to submit a claim before May 1, 2009. The official settlement website – – has all the forms and info.

Bank of America customers aren’t the only ones included in the suit. Former Fleet Bank, La Salle Bank, La Salle Bank Midwest and United States Trust Company customers may also be eligible for some of the settlement money.

Non-sufficient funds fees have become a big part of bank and credit union income. Bank consulting firm Bretton Woods estimated the number at over $37 billion in a recent study. Their study also concluded that these fees cost the average household with a checking account $368 per year; the proposed max payout in the settlement ($78) is only a portion of that.

Momentum has been building among consumers who are tired of getting hit with overdraft fees on their debit and ATM transactions. The Consumers Union (the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine)  is soliciting personal commentary from customers who feel victimized by the charges in advance of a Federal Reserve Board hearing on the topic. The union is recommending that banks be required to get customer permission before approving ATM and debit transactions, called “opt-in” overdraft protection. If you feel like you’ve got something to say on the topic, check out their website on the issue. Wells Fargo (Quote: WFC) is also facing a similar lawsuit over debit card transaction fees, while the Internet abounds with angry rants again excessive fees from Compass Bank (Quote: CBSS) and JP Morgan Chase (Quote: JPM).

In reaching the settlement, Bank of America maintains it did nothing wrong, and the court won’t rule on the validity of the suit’s allegations. Class members who apply for a payment also give up their rights to take part in any other suits against BofA.

If you’re worried about overdraft fees, check out sbup’s advice on how to keep the charges in check, and five tips on keeping your checking account cheap.

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