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How to Stop Overdraft Fees from Draining Your Finances - 3 Free and Easy Ways

Applying for overdraft protection* for your checking account is just one of the many ways you can keep overdraft charges in check.


When you write a check or use your debit card for a purchase that costs more money than you have in your account, your account balance goes negative—becomes less than zero. An overdraft is the amount of money a bank will automatically advance you to make up that difference. And because making up the difference means making you an unexpected short-term loan, banks charge an overdraft fee for this service.

Bank overdraft fees can add up faster than you might think, and average overdraft fees are going up. Nationwide, Americans pay about $34 billion in overdraft fees each year—money that could have been used to pay down mortgages, student loans, and high interest credit cards or to start an emergency fund.

“My job is to make sure that my customers improve their financial health every single year,” Karen Coffin explains. “What is a bank overdraft saying about the state of your financial health? Overdraft fees can be one-time mistakes, or they can signal more serious issues lie ahead. But no matter what is going on in a customer’s life, Machias Savings Bank wants to find a way to help.”


Change or remove the overdraft protection limit on your account.

Applying for overdraft protection on your account can help customers smooth out slower periods of income … or create constant problems. If you are always absentminded about how much money you have in your account, you might be better off having the bank decline your check or charge rather than cover it and charge you more money later.

Set automated low balance alerts on your checking account.

“Debit cards are so convenient, but they do make it easier to spend too much,” Karen Coffin acknowledges. “We can see cash dwindling in our wallets, but debit cards make a falling bank balance harder to visualize.

Machias Savings Bank can email or text customers when their bank account balances dip below a predetermined amount. Customers can easily set up these kinds of alerts themselves in MSB Online.

“This is another great strategy if you frequently forget to check your balance and get charged overdraft fees as a result,” Karen Coffin says. “You set a dollar limit you feel comfortable with and when your balance falls below it, you receive a message that reminds you to deposit or transfer more funds or to slow down your spending.”

Not sure how much to budget? Our relationship bankers are always happy to take a look at your household finances and make healthy recommendations.

Implement automatic transfers to your checking account.

While saving up for emergency and rainy-day funds is a critical part of financial health, eliminating overdraft fees is arguably more important. Linking another account—such as your savings account—to your checking account can help you avoid these unnecessary overdraft penalties.

“However, I always tell customers to be particularly careful with this option if you are linking a savings account,” Karen Coffin advises. “It can be so easy to start spending your savings on impulse buys. But if you can be responsible about when and why you access your savings, this can be a great way to handle things like unexpected car or home repairs without racking up expensive overdraft charges.”

While the solutions above are available at most banks, Machias Savings Bank provides an additional level of protection against overdraft fees—personalized customer service.

“If you don’t know whom to call at your bank when you need help, you are at the wrong bank,” Karen Coffin declares. “My customers know my name and my phone number. They know I’m always here to help.”


For first-time overdrafts, waived overdraft fees are quite common. When problems are recurring or deeper in nature, staying in close contact with your banker becomes very important.

“When the COVID-19 crisis sparked widespread layoffs and the state of Maine had so many difficulties getting unemployment payments out, we worked closely with our customers to keep them going during this particularly tough time. They kept us updated on their progress and we always knew a solution was in sight,” Karen explains. “Regular and open communication made it possible for me to take some pressure off our clients.”


Sometimes, you can see problems coming, like furloughs, layoffs, or medical leaves at work that will reduce or halt your direct deposits for a period of time. Rather than toss and turn at night worrying about the future, reach out to your bank and explain the challenges you face.

“I don’t know what is happening in your life,” Karen Coffin says. “But I do know money. I love using my financial expertise to find a way forward for individuals, and families. If you tell me about your problems or challenges, I will start looking for solutions—and the sooner you tell me the better those solutions will be.”

Karen Coffin

Contact Karen Coffin

Ready to review your overdraft protections? Need assistance setting budgets or limits, or linking accounts? A relationship banker actually wants to help you keep more of your money.

*Subject to approval.



As a customer of Machias Savings Bank, the focus is on you. We will enhance your banking relationship by working with you to discover your banking needs. We will be there when you need us.


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