Staff Reports
Who Pays the Price? Overdraft Fee Ceilings and the Unbanked
Number 973
June 2021

JEL classification: D1, E43, G21, G38, G5

Authors: Jennifer L. Dlugosz, Brian T. Melzer, and Donald P. Morgan

Nearly 25 percent of low-income households in the United States are unbanked. High fees are often cited as a reason they remain unbanked, leading some to believe that limiting bank fees would improve financial inclusion. We use the federal preemption of state limits on overdraft fees to study the impact of fee ceilings on low-income households. After preemption, national banks raise overdraft fees relative to state-chartered banks in affected states. However, banks in affected states also provide more overdraft credit and bounce a smaller share of checks following preemption. The share of low-income households that are unbanked decreases, consistent with price ceilings causing the rationing of both overdraft and banking services.

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AUTHOR DISCLOSURE STATEMENT(S)
Jennifer L. Dlugosz
The author declares that she has no relevant or material financial interests that relate to the research described in this paper. Prior to circulation, this paper was reviewed in accordance with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York review policy, available at https://www.newyorkfed.org/research/staff_reports/index.html.

Brian T. Melzer
The author declares that he has no relevant or material financial interests that relate to the research described in this paper. Prior to circulation, this paper was reviewed in accordance with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York review policy, available at https://www.newyorkfed.org/research/staff_reports/index.html.

Donald P. Morgan
The author declares that he has no relevant or material financial interests that relate to the research described in this paper. Prior to circulation, this paper was reviewed in accordance with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York review policy, available at https://www.newyorkfed.org/research/staff_reports/index.html.
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