Overdraft revenue fell nearly $1 billion for credit unions, banks and thrifts in first quarter 2013, according to the latest quarterly study on overdrafts by Moebs Services, a Lake Bluff, Ill.-based economic research firm.
Total deposit service charges fell on an annualized basis 2.9%, which is the first quarterly fall since the fourth quarter of 2011 and only the second time in two years.
The Moebs study also shows that while population, household formation and newly opened checking accounts continue to grow, overdraft transactions fell to the lowest level since 1999. Moebs has studied OD Revenue since 1992.
“Overdraft revenue is starting to act like a barometer of the sluggish economy,” explained Michael Moebs, economist, and CEO of Moebs $ervices. “With the net pay of Americans suffering a jolt under the Affordable Health Care Act’s provisions of increased taxes starting January 1, the savvy checking account user is fine tuning their finances and reducing expenses, especially deposit service charges.”
What’s more, February and March are historically the lowest months for OD transactions because the consumer is trying to recover from the holiday season which can be hard on the wallet and purse, he said. So, with the reduction of net pay right after the holidays, February and March moved up a month sooner making the first quarter of 2013 bad.”
Another factor was the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s decision over regulation on overdrafts. Pending CFPB chief Richard Cordray decided to stretch out potential overdraft regulations for up to two years to provide more study time on the issue.
“This threw banks and credit unions into a quandary over how to position price changes on overdrafts,” said Moebs, “So most financial institutions decided to keep the prices the same while the consumer was overdrawing less.”
The median national overdraft charge is $29.
Also influencing OD revenue to a lesser extent was marketing moves by financial institutions to give waivers on the first six OD transactions in a year, to forgo small overdraft balances of less than $5.
Moebs suggested that credit unions and banks can continue to reduce fees to increase revenues.
“Walmart took a small family business to the giant in the retail business by reducing price and selling more,” he said. “Our data shows financial institutions that lower prices to help the consumer reduce fees actually increase revenue from having more volume of new checking accounts and transactions.”
About 30% of the 135 million checking account users are “under banked” or have a FICO score of less than 600, which remains unchanged from 20 years ago.
“This seems to tell us the consumer and small business person needs a financial safety net and wants overdraft service,” Moebs said.