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Can You Overdraft Your Savings Account?

By Sarah Li Cain · May 22, 2022 · 6 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Can You Overdraft Your Savings Account?

The answer to the question, “Can you overdraft your savings account?” is: Yes, indeed, you can. Perhaps you forgot to deposit a check into the account and then transferred funds out. Or maybe you moved more money out of the account into your checking than you actually had. These and other glitches can leave you with a negative balance in your checking.

Let’s take a look at what happens if you overdraft your savings account, and what you can do next time to avoid it. We’ll cover:

•  The consequences of overdrawing a savings account

•  Understanding overdraft protection and fees

•  How to avoid overdraft charges

•  Steps to take if you are overdrawn.

Here’s the scoop on overdrafting a savings account.

Consequences of Overdrawing a Savings Account

If you’re curious what exactly it means when you overdraft a savings account, you’re in the right place. Let’s explain: An overdraft happens when there is a withdrawal from your account that results in the balance being below zero — sometimes called a negative balance. There are several ways this can happen. Maybe you withdrew cash from an ATM, an automatic withdrawal was processed, or you wrote a check against your savings account for more than you had in it.

When that negative balance kicks in, a couple of different things could happen. Much depends on your particular financial institution and the terms you agreed to when you opened the account.

Among the possibilities:

•  You’ll be charged an overdraft fee: If you signed an agreement to opt into overdraft coverage, your financial institution will allow you to overdraft on your account for a fee. (That is, they will authorize the transaction and allow for it to be completed, extending you a loan.) The amount of the fee will differ depending on your account and your bank. Some financial institutions may even charge you every day and/or for additional withdrawals while your account is negative. Considering the average overdraft fee is over $30, this cost can really add up.

•  Your transaction is declined: Your financial institution may decline the transaction if you don’t have overdraft protection. In this case, the transaction won’t go through. In addition, you could face a non-sufficient funds, or NSF fee. In many cases this amount is similar to an overdraft fee.

•  Your linked account will be used to cover the cost. This usually happens when you overdraw a checking account, and a linked savings account covers the difference. However, you may be able to link your savings account to another one (typically at the same financial institution) as a backup. If an account goes down to zero or below, then money would be withdrawn from the backup account to complete the transaction. In many cases, this service is free, though that’ll depend on your bank.

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Understanding Overdraft Protection and Fees

While we’re on the topic of overdrawn accounts, let’s share a little more detail on overdraft protection and the fees involved. Financial institutions offer overdraft protection programs to help ensure your transactions proceed smoothly in case you reach a negative balance. These programs vary somewhat. Options may include linking a checking and savings account together — funds will be transferred automatically for the negative balance. Or the bank might allow the transaction to go through, and you’ll be charged a fee until you make up for the difference.

Federal regulations require banks to allow account holders to opt into overdraft protection for ATM and debit cards for point-of-sale transactions (or purchases). If you don’t opt in, you won’t be able to overdraft — your bank will deny the transaction. In this case, you won’t be charged any bank fees. However, this may not apply to recurring payments, bank transfers, or checks.

As we mentioned, your financial institution may charge you a fee for each transaction that involves overdraft protection, though banks typically have a maximum amount they’ll charge per day. For example, you transferred $1,200 for your rent payment out of your savings, and you only had $1,000 in your account, you’ll have a negative balance. This results in a $200 overdraft (if you have coverage), plus you’ll pay a $35 overdraft fee. Let’s say you don’t get paid until a week later to make up the difference. In that case, your account will continue to have a negative balance. Let’s say your bank ends up charging you an extra $10 for that week, totaling $45 in fees. It could be higher. Even if your bank denies the transaction, you could still pay the NSF fee of, say, $35.

As you can see, overdrafting on your savings account can get expensive. That’s why it’s a smart idea to rectify the situation as soon as possible and prevent it from happening in the future.

Steps if You Have Overdrawn on Your Account

So let’s say you’ve overdrawn on your savings account. Here’s how to get out of the negative-balance zone:

•  Deposit funds: Once you’ve overdrafted, make a deposit into that account as soon as possible. Doing so can prevent you from being hit with multiple overdraft fees, especially if you know you need to make withdrawals in the next day or so.

•  Ask to have the fee waived: If this is the first time you’ve had a negative balance, you can contact your financial institution to request to have the fee waived. If you’ve been a loyal customer and have remained in good standing with your accounts up until now, the bank may not charge you.

•  Pay the overdraft fee: If your bank rejects your request to have the fee waived, it’s best to pay it as soon as possible. You can typically do that by making a deposit into the overdrawn account. While your bank won’t take drastic measures like closing your account, do know that letting a bank account sit with a negative balance can wind up hurting your credit score if the matter gets sent to a collection agency.

•  Settle payment with the payee: If your payment didn’t go through, then you’ll need to contact the person or company and make arrangements for alternative payment. Depending on the type of payment, you could face a late or returned payment fee by the payee, which you’ll also need to pay.

Tips for Avoiding Overdraft Fees

Most of us wonder how to avoid account maintenance fees and other charges. Overdraft fees are one of those expenses you likely want to escape. Here are some best practices on how to do so.

1. Sign Up for Text or Email Alerts for Low Balance

Many banks allow you to sign up for email or text alerts when your savings account reaches a certain threshold. By doing so, you have time to deposit additional funds so you won’t risk your bank account going to zero or a negative balance.

2. Check Your Bank Account Regularly and Review Statements

Logging into your account online or through your banking app allows you to quickly see your balance and any upcoming transactions. By keeping on top of your account, you’ll be able to see if you’ll need to have more funds on hand, and you’ll have time to make those deposits. Many people find that checking their account balances a few times a week is a helpful habit.

3. Review and Compare Automatic Payment Dates to Withdraw Dates

Looking at when money actually gets withdrawn from your account will help you plan better. For instance, if you know you’ll have a few withdrawals totaling $600 on the 15th of each month, you can plan to make sure you have that much in the account then. (Having a buffer is nice if you can swing it, too.)

4. Revisit Your Budget

Reviewing your budget occasionally will help you see whether you’re overspending in certain areas. If so, working to cut back on expenses can prevent overdrafts. This is especially important during these inflationary times, when basic living expenses can creep up and require budget recalibration.

5. Build an Emergency Fund

You’ve probably heard the advice that it’s wise to have a rainy-day fund with enough cash in it to cover a few or several months’ worth of expenses. Having this kind of buffer will help when unexpected circumstances arise. These situations could range from a big medical bill to your laptop dying to being laid off. Aim to keep your emergency fund in a separate account, far from your everyday accounts, so you’re not tempted to spend it.

6. Consider Overdraft Protection and Coverage

Check into what your financial institution offers in terms of overdraft protection or coverage, and see if it makes sense for you. This may involve opening what is akin to a line of credit, so proceed carefully to know what it will cost you. Make sure you understand what your responsibilities are, including fees and when a withdrawal from a linked account may occur. It may be a wise move that, while not free, does keep your banking flowing smoothly when you hit a snag in your financial flow.

The Takeaway

Overdrafting on your savings account can happen, and it can result in hefty fees. There are several smart tactics that you can adopt to avoid this scenario — and cope if your balance does wind up in negative territory. Planning ahead for these kinds of money-crunch situations is a wise idea as life is full of unexpected expenses.

Here’s another way to handle potential overdrafts: Bank better with SoFi. Our online bank accounts will cover you for up to $50 in overdrafts with no fee charged if you sign up with qualifying direct deposits. What’s more, we don’t charge you any monthly or minimum-balance account fees, and you’ll be able to access your paycheck up to two full days early. Ready for the icing on the cake? We offer a super-competitive APY to help your money grow faster!

Better banking is here with up to 3.25% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


Photo credit: iStock/damircudic

SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 3.25% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 2.50% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 11/3/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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