Even if you don’t have cash on hand and your account is overdrawn, it’s still important to deposit money to make your account balance positive as quickly as possible. You may also be able to have your fees waived by calling your bank.
If money is tight, then you may find you’ve accidentally gone over budget and spent more than you had in your checking account. When that happens, your account goes into overdraft, meaning it has a negative balance.
An overdrawn bank or credit union account has several downsides, including costly fees. And if you don’t have money to replenish it, the situation can get worse. Keep reading to learn what you can do if your bank account is overdrawn — even if you have no money — and how to prevent it from happening in the future.
What does it mean when your bank account is overdrawn?
An overdrawn bank account happens when you spend more money from your bank than you had available. For example, let’s say you had $25 left in your checking account. If you then make a purchase for $30, your account will be overdrawn by $5.
“If there is a payment that has been authorized in your account, but there are insufficient funds to cover it, instead of declining the transaction your bank may sometimes pay the sum due, but will then charge you an overdraft fee,” said Colin Palfrey, the chief marketing officer of the personal finance management company Crediful.
While overdraft fees vary between financial institutions, you can expect to pay around $35, according to the FDIC. And if you allow your account to remain in overdraft, you may be subject to additional fees. For that reason, it’s important that you bring your account balance back to positive as quickly as possible.
What to do when your bank account is overdrawn
When your bank account balance goes into the negative, it’s important to fix the situation as quickly as possible. And while that can seem nearly impossible when you don’t have any money, there are steps you can take.
1. Stop using the account
First things first, stop using your checking account as soon as you find out your account is overdrawn. Continuing to use an account with a negative balance is likely to result in even more fees.
2. Deposit money as soon as you can
The next step you should take is to deposit enough money into your account to bring your balance to positive. Ideally, you would be able to deposit even more to give yourself a bit of breathing room.
Unfortunately, if you’ve overdrawn your checking account, there’s a good chance you’ve run into a tough time financially. And in that case, you might not have money that you can deposit into your account. If that’s the case, here are a few things to consider:
- Transfer money from another account. Do you have another checking or savings account? Transfer money from that account to the overdrawn account to bring it to positive as quickly as possible.
- Sell something you own. Do you have anything of value at home that you no longer use? Selling one of your belongings can be a quick way to get some extra cash when you need it — at least enough to bring your checking account balance positive.
- Pick up extra work. See if there’s a way you can pick up more work to get a bit of extra cash. Maybe that means picking up an extra shift at your current job. It could also mean picking up a side hustle like picking up jobs on Uber, Instacart, or another gig app.
3. Talk to a bank representative
If you have overdraft fees on your account, reach out to your bank. Often, banks and credit unions will waive or refund overdraft fees if you ask them, especially if it’s your first overdraft. While this won’t bring your account positive, it will save you money and reduce the amount you have to deposit to get your balance to positive.
However, institutions have no obligation to waive fees. And many financial institutions won’t waive fees if overdrawing your account becomes a habit. You’ll get the best results by calling right away, asking politely, and doing everything possible to avoid another overdraft.
That said, one of the best ways to avoid overdraft fees is to open an account with an institution that doesn’t charge them. To open an account with one of these institutions, take a look at the list below.
How to avoid an overdrawn bank account in the future
Once you’ve addressed your current overdraft, it’s important that you take steps to prevent it from happening in the future. After all, the last thing you want is to have your hard-earned money continually going toward overdraft fees.
Track your spending
The most important step you can take to prevent overdrawing your bank account is to get on a budget and track your spending. If you know where each dollar is going, you’ll know ahead of time whether you have enough money in your bank account to cover it.
Additionally, getting on budgeting and tracking your purchases can help you find areas where you’re overspending and can afford to cut back.
If you’re having a difficult time establishing and sticking to a budget, consider seeking out professional help.
“It could be worthwhile seeking advice from a debt counselor or budgeting expert to try and formulate a new plan to allow you to work your way out of debt and create a budgeting plan that you can stick to,” Palfrey said.
Check your balance regularly
Unfortunately, an overdrawn bank account can catch you by surprise. And the best way to avoid that is to be aware of your bank account balance.
Make it a practice to check your balance often. Check your account at least once per week, so you’ll know if your balance is getting low. And if overdrawing your bank account is a common occurrence for you, it may be best to check it every day.
Sign up for account alerts
Many financial institutions allow you to set up account alerts for various things, including a low balance. You can usually set a certain dollar amount, and once your balance reaches that number, you’ll get an email, text message, or app notification from your bank.
Opt out of overdraft protection
Overdraft protection is a service that most financial institutions offer that allows you to go negative in your bank account. In other words, if you make any debit card transactions you don’t have enough money to cover, your institution will allow the purchases to go through, but then your account will be negative.
While overdraft protection may seem helpful, it allows you to spend money you don’t have and then charges you an overdraft fee for it. Luckily, most institutions allow you to opt out of overdraft protection, meaning your account balance can’t go into the negative.
“This will mean that if there are insufficient funds to cover a payment the charge will be declined. You will still owe the money to the creditor, but you won’t be charged any overdraft fees,” Palfrey.
Link another bank account
Depending on your institution, you may be able to link your checking account to another bank account (most people use their savings accounts). And if your checking account balance goes into the red, the institution will automatically direct deposit money from the linked account into your overdrawn account to cover the difference.
Shop around for a different bank account
Switching banks can’t prevent you from overdrawing your bank account. However, it can help you avoid overdraft fees (or at least reduce the amount you owe) if you do end up with an overdrawn account.
There’s been a trend in banking where many financial institutions — especially online ones — have done away with fees, including overdraft fees. Some major institutions have followed suit, not by eliminating their overdraft fees altogether but by reducing them considerably.
How long can my bank account be overdrawn?
Most institutions will only allow your account to be in overdraft for between a few days and a week before they start charging an additional fee (known as an extended overdraft fee). Additionally, many institutions will close your checking account once it’s been overdrawn for a certain amount of time (often 60 days).
How do I get money if my account is overdrawn?
You probably won’t be able to use an overdrawn account (nor should you). If possible, withdraw money from another account to cover the negative balance. If you don’t have money in a different account, try to find additional ways to make money quickly.
Will my bank give me a loan if my account is overdrawn?
Whether you can get a loan if your bank account is overdrawn depends on the overall state of your finances. Lenders want to see that you have both income and assets before taking out a loan.
If you don’t have assets elsewhere, your institution may not feel confident that you can repay the loan. However, if you have a good credit score, additional assets, and a regular source of income, you may be able to get a loan.
- When your bank account is overdrawn, it means you’ve spent more money than you had in the account and your balance is negative.
- Financial institutions usually charge fees for a negative account balance, with an average overdraft fee being around $30.
- If you overdraw your bank account, you should stop using the account, contact your institution, and deposit money as soon as you can.
- To avoid future overdrafts, track your spending, check your balance regularly, sign up for low balance alerts, opt out of overdraft protection, and link to another bank account.
View Article Sources
- Overdraft and Account Fees — Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
- Overdraft fees can price people out of banking — Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- What Is Bank Overdraft Protection And How Does It Work? — SuperMoney
- Does Overdraft Affect Your Credit Score? — SuperMoney
- Checking Account Fees (2023) How To Avoid Them — SuperMoney
- Can Opening or Closing Your Bank Account Hurt Your Credit? — SuperMoney
- Can You Overdraft a Credit Card? — SuperMoney
- How To Get Overdraft Fees Refunded — SuperMoney
- Why Is My Debit Card Declined When I Have Money? — SuperMoney
- How To Close A Chase Checking Account — SuperMoney
- Best Checking Accounts With No Overdraft Fees — SuperMoney
- Best Checking Accounts — SuperMoney