No more $40 cup of coffee

Many big banks have put in place a daily floor to lower the risk of customers getting hit by big overdraft fees, reports The Washington Post’s Danielle Douglas.

Research firm Moebs Services found that 52 percent of big banks — such as JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America — have established what’s known as a “de minimis” balance, Douglas wrote this week. Only about 11 percent of credit unions have such a threshold.

Here’s an example of how it works: If your bank’s threshold is $7.40, the national average, but you overdraw your account by only $6, you wouldn’t get hit with a fee.

And for your serial overdraft people, Douglas says, the survey found that nearly two-thirds of big banks also limit how many times in one day a customer can be charged overdraft fees, with some capping it at two fees a day and others capping it as high as 12.

Color of Money Column Question of the Week

Tell me about your most outrageous overdraft fee? Send your stories to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “No more $40 Cup of Coffee” in the subject line. Please include your full name, city and state.

Live online chat today

What’s your financial issue? Join me today at noon Eastern time. I’ll be taking your personal finance questions. Here’s the link to join the conversation.

Summertime scams

Consumer Reports did a nice roundup of warnings from the Federal Trade Commission, Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security about scams targeting vacationers. I can see how many people might fall for one scam in particular, detailed by Amy Hebert, consumer education specialist for the FTC.

“Someone calls you from the hotel front desk, saying there’s problem with your credit card information, which you must provide again,” writes Anthony Giorgianni for Consumer Reports. “Seems legit, right? But it’s not the front desk, it’s a scammer trying to trick you into divulging information needed to make purchases on your card.”

If there was a problem with your credit card, a hotel staffer would ak you to visit the front desk, the FTC says.

If you get hungry and decide to skip the expensive room service, watch out for the fake food delivery scam. In this scheme, con artists are also after your credit card information.

Click here to read about the other scams involving computer use in hotels. If you’re traveling, you need to know about these risks.

Baby or bust

Last week in the e-letter I asked at what point can you afford a baby? Should people defer their dreams of expanding their family because of the economy?

“Choices large and small hang in the balance — whether to buy a house, go to college, get married. Have a baby,” wrote The Washington Post’s Todd C. Frankel in a piece for the new Storyline feature.

Here’s what some of you had to say about baby or bust:

“My husband and I believe finances should play into a decision regarding family planning,” wrote Liz Detrich of Pacifica, Calif. “We both love children but realized that even with two incomes, it would be tight if anything happened to one of our jobs. We don’t always get what we want in life; we wanted kids but money was too much of an issue. My hubby and I volunteer with local children’s agencies and try to make a difference in our own small way. It’s not the same as having our own little ones, but we still get to help children, and that is gratifying.”

Max Handelsman of Olney, Md., wrote: “Family planning should be influenced by the family’s financial circumstances, which may be influenced somewhat by the economy, but your own personal circumstances can and should be much more influential.”

Kimberly Rotter of San Diego said financial fears kept her from having a second baby. “I got married at 40 and had my first child at 41,” she wrote. “Then when I was ready (our finances hadn’t changed, just my willingness to believe things would work out), it was too late. Hello, perimenopause. I looked into IVF with a donated egg. It was $18,000 for one transfer with a 50 percent to 60 percent chance of a live birth result (a gamble outside my comfort zone), or $4,000 for as many transfers as I needed to achieve a live birth (a price tag outside my budget).”

Rotter added: “I’m very disappointed that it didn’t work out, especially with the knowledge that the only thing standing between me and that second baby is/was money. I am saddened by the irony that many people easily have huge families with no means to support them. But that is the world we live in. I don’t regret trying to be responsible about it. As it stands, we will be able to offer our one child many privileges that we didn’t have when we were growing up, and she will always know she is loved and wanted.”

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to www.postbusiness.com.

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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