This research brief examines consumers’ experiences with checking account overdrafts since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, using responses gathered from a special module in the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Consumer Finance Institute "COVID-19 Survey of Consumers."
According to the Consumer Finance Institute’s (CFI) latest COVID-19 Survey of Consumers, which was administered on July 5‒16, 2021, 29 percent of survey respondents were charged an overdraft fee during the crisis. That reflects an increase of 4.8 percentage points from the 24.3 percent who recall being charged an overdraft fee in 2019.
About 64 percent of respondents who had an overdraft during the crisis had some or all of their overdraft fees refunded, but respondents earning below $40,000 were significantly less likely to ask their bank for a fee refund than respondents with incomes of $125,000 or more.
Half of respondents who used overdrafts during the crisis did so intentionally. Higher-income respondents were more likely to intentionally have overdrafts than lower-income respondents. Students and unemployed job seekers also reported higher incidences of overdrafts than employed and other nonemployed respondents during the crisis.