CHICAGO — An executive with the Consumer Federation of America told payment industry executives attending the Payments Conference that cash is the consumers' best and safest method of payment today. Jean Ann Fox, director of financial services for the CFA, drew gasps from attendees when she argued that the current financial institution practices of charging overdraft fees for debit transactions, very high interest rates and fees on credit cards and other measures unfair to consumers made cash consumers' best option. "When consumers are having $3 cups of Starbucks coffee wind up costing them $35 when they use their debit cards, I don't think it's too much to suggest that their debit cards with the overdraft fees do not serve them well," Fox said. She said that she had heard many stories from consumers using their debit cards for small transactions, believing that their financial institutions would not permit them to overdraw their accounts only to find that their small transaction had cost them $35 or $40. Fox urged that consumers have to opt-in to overdraft protection programs and that, absent a consumers explicit instructions, card issuers should not overdraw accounts for small transactions. "I have yet to meet a consumer who wouldn't rather have the embarrassment of reaching into their pocketbook or wallet for cash or even asking a friend for the money rather than face a huge overdraft fee," she said. –[email protected]

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