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I bought my kids dinner — and saw firsthand how overdraft fees punish the poor
Photo by Atit Phetmuangtong / EyeEm via Getty Images

I Bought My Kids Dinner — And Saw Firsthand How Overdraft Fees Punish the Poor

Like many people who are or have ever been poor, I have plenty of stories about the costly and embarrassing ramifications of overdraft fees. Once, a $5 can of baby formula triggered a cascade of fees and penalties so substantial that it ended up costing me hundreds of dollars by the time I was finally able to get my account back in the positive.

Another time, I was thrilled to receive a $200 freelance payment in the mail and rushed to deposit it into my checking account — which at that point had a balance of around $3. In my excitement, I failed to realize that my bank would hold the check for three business days before it “cleared” and was officially credited. On my way home from the bank, I treated my kids to Happy Meals. The $10 transaction went through but sent my account into the negative, causing me to incur more than $100 in fees before I knew what had happened.

 

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

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Bobbi Dempsey is the author of several nonfiction books, including Degrees of Desperation: The Working-Class Struggle to Pay for College. She has been writing for EHRP since 2018, including resonant personal essays on her own experience of poverty. She has also written for The Guardian, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Parade and Harper’s, winning an award from the American Society of Journalists & Authors.

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