AMERICANS GET slapped with $17.5 billion a year in overdraft fees. That’s partly because 8 of the country’s 10 biggest banks process customers’ daily charges—checks, withdrawals, debits—not in the order they’re made, but from the largest to smallest amount. So if you overdraw with your rent check, any smaller purchases you made earlier in the day will be processed afterward, resulting in multiple overdraft fees. Mother Jones reader James Gordon of Haworth, New Jersey, asked us to look into this “intentional thievery.” We called his bank, Wachovia, where a customer service rep guessed that this was “to get more money out of customers maybe?” Not so, explained corporate communications manager Eileen Leveckis: “Our research has shown that customers prefer us to pay the higher-amount bills such as mortgage, car payments—the really important bills that will impact credit.” Maybe she didn’t get the memo. According to an internal document obtained by USA Today, last year Wachovia told employees that overdraft charges “make up a big percentage of our revenue and is [sic] a HOT button among leadership.”
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