Accidents happen. Overdrawing your checking account doesn't have to. Learning how electronic payments are processed can help you avoid NSF fees.

How debit card transactions process

When you swipe your debit card with a merchant (grocery store, gas station, etc.) you have the option to process as a debit or a credit.


Debit Transactions:

When you choose to process your transaction as a debit, you will be required to enter your 4-digit PIN number. If the funds are available in your checking account, the transaction will be approved and the funds will be removed from your account immediately.

If you have trouble balancing your check register, processing all debit card transactions as "debits" will help you avoid NSF fees.

Credit Transactions:
When you choose to process your transaction as a "credit", it will automatically be approved. The merchant will then place a hold on your checking account for the amount of the transaction.

When the hold is placed, how long it is held, and when it is released is at the merchant's discretion; not the financial institutions. In some cases, the hold may drop off your account before the transaction actually clears. This means, the transaction is neither pending nor paid. It is temporarily "missing" from your account. 

When this occurs, your available balance will be temporarily inflated. The only way to truly know your available balance (at a given time) is to ensure all of your transactions are accounted for either as 'pending' or cleared. Within online or mobile banking, cleared transactions will show in your checking account history. Your most recent transactions will be at the top of the page.

Unfortunately, if you are basing your spending decisions solely off the "available balance" shown within online or mobile banking - you could be misinformed.


Special Circumstances:
Certain merchants such as gas stations and hotels will place a hold on your account that exceeds the actual transaction amount. When this happens, those funds will not be available to clear any other transactions. Again, this is at the merchant's discretion; not the financial institutions.

Online purchases made with a debit card will automatically be processed as a "credit"; there is no way of processing these payments as a "debit."

How ACH payments process

When you set up bills to be auto-paid from your checking account, you are giving these companies permission to access your funds. This is commonly done with insurance companies, utility companies, and banks.

It is then your responsibility to manage these payments. MemberFocus has no control over when these transactions happen or the amount withdrawn.

ACH payments may or may not show up as "pending" on your account prior to clearing. Being aware of these authorized payments will help you manage your checking account balance and avoid NSF fees.

To stop an ACH payment from occurring on your account, you will need to contact the company that is pulling the funds.

The best ways to avoid NSF fees

The best way to avoid NSF fees to have a cushion.


Savings account:

Keep an emergency fund in your savings account. Set aside whatever you can afford: $5, $50, or $500. Then ask MemberFocus to set this savings account up as overdraft protection (ODP) for your checking.

If an unexpected transaction occurs, your ODP will kick-in and the funds will move seamlessly from your savings to cover it. Depending on your account status, there may be a $1 or $2 overdraft transfer fee for this service. However, that's much better than a $30 NSF fee.

Note: 'Regulation D' from the U.S. Government limits the number of savings to checking transfers to six per month.

Line of credit:
Another option for overdraft protection (ODP) is to apply for a line of credit. For creditworthy members, this small loan will act as a safety net, protecting their checking against overdrafts and NSF fees.

If an unexpected transaction occurs, your ODP will kick-in and the funds will move seamlessly from your line of credit to cover it. There is no charge for this transfer of funds. You will however pay interest on the balance of your line of credit loan until it is paid off.

Line of credit loans require a loan application and credit approval.

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We understand that an overdrawn checking account can be a frustrating experience. If you need help with your account, please send us a message 24/7.


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