AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Georgia bank socking customers with overdraft fees, consumer group says

A Georgia bank was the toughest in the nation when it comes to socking customers with overdraft fees, according to a analysis by a consumer group.

Ameris Bank collected the most overdraft/insufficient fund fees per account of any U.S. bank, says the analysis, which is based on federal government data from the first three quarters of 2016. Ameris collected an average of about $176 per account, the California Public Interest Research Company reported. The No. 2 bank on the list of the top 10 collected an average of about $131 per account.

The national average was $17.76.

Five of those 10 banks collecting the most per account would have reported net income losses in the first three quarters of the year were it not for the overdraft revenue, the report says.

The consumer group has an agenda in making the report: It says the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau is working to protect consumers from what it calls unfair overdraft fees. It urges federal officials to defend CFPB against attempts to eliminate it.

The bureau was established under the Dodd-Frank Act as part of financial reforms aimed at protecting consumers from abuses by financial institutions. But critics say that the bureau has stifled bank innovation with excessive regulations. AP and other news organizations say the bureau is in the crosshairs of the incoming Trump administration. You can read the AP story here: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/6dced90f198648ad968706f94e7a8a1d/end-dodd-frank-unlikely-consumer-agency-crosshairs

Ameris is based in Moultrie and has banks in Atlanta and Roswell, among other locations. Read what Ameris says about its overdraft practices here: https://www.amerisbank.com/tools-resources/notices-disclosures/standard-overdraft-practices/

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About the Author

Lois Norder is Senior Editor for Investigations in the newsroom at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.