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Ally Bank ends overdraft fees, a first for large US banks

ap photo This 2016 file photo shows the completed 16th floor of the Ally Detroit Center, headquarters of Ally Financial Inc., in downtown Detroit.

NEW YORK — Ally Financial said Wednesday that it is ending overdraft fees entirely on all of its bank products, becoming the first large U.S. bank to end overdraft fees across its entire business.

It’s a major move by Ally, one of the nation’s largest banks, and for the industry, which has been reliant on overdraft fees for decades to boost profits, often at the expense of poorer Americans who can’t afford to pay such fees in the first place.

Critics of the practice often cite what they call the $38 cup of coffee, where a bank customer uses a debit card to buy a coffee, overdrafts, and ends up paying a $35 fee on top of the $3 drink.

In its announcement, Detroit-based Ally cited specifically the impact that overdraft fees have on Black and Latino households, which are historically poorer than their white counterparts and are hit with overdraft fees more often. It’s also a common reason why Black and Latino households choose to be “unbanked,” that is being without a bank account, in order to avoid the fees that often come with these accounts.

“Overdraft fees can be a major cause of anxiety,” said Diane Morais, president of consumer and commercial banking at Ally Bank, in a statement. “It became clear to us that the best way to relieve that anxiety was to eliminate those fees.”

The announcement affects roughly 3.6 million checking, savings and money market accounts, the bank said.

Ally did not earn significant fees from overdrafts. The most Ally charged each customer for overdrafting an account was $25 per day, instead of per transaction.

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