Overdraft Protection and Your Credit Score

I have to admit, a lot of my content for the articles I write come from my clients or other home owners who have really good questions.  When I can't find an answer ready to refer them to here at Mortgage Porter, it's time to write a post!   Here's a great example of a question I recently received from one of my refi clients:

"I have a question about a possible impact on our credit score, which you may have some insight into.  We have been meaning for some time to get overdraft coverage on our checking account for "just in case" and today, we got that lined up.   However, I'm reading over the documents from our bank this evening and it looks like they just issued us a credit card.  Is this something that would play poorly on our FICO score?"

Overdraft protection is often a new credit card issued from your bank that is attached to your bank account.  Because this is "new credit" it will impact credit scores.

According to Linda Ferrari's book "The Big Score – Getting It and Keeping It"

"New accounts will lower your overall account age and diminish your length of credit history for a period of 3-6 months, so be sure to have cushion in your score.  Even if you've used credit for a very long time, opening a new account can lower your credit scores."

How much your score is impacted is hard to say–it depends on your overall credit picture.  If you're someone with perfect credit and 800 scores, your credit score may be barely impacted.  However, if you are someone with pretty good credit (around 720) BEFORE the new debt (over-draft protection) and you're considering a refinance or using a mortgage to purchase a home, you might have just dipped your credit low enough to have been impacted by higher mortgage loan rates.

Overdraft fees can add up quick and due to recently regulations by the Fed preventing banks from charging overdraft fees on certain transactions (ATM/debt cards) which will go into effect July 1, 2010, banks are sure to offer overdraft protection to help make up for lost revenue.

The Federal Reserve Board on Thursday [November 12, 2009] announced final rules that prohibit financial institutions from charging consumers fees for paying overdrafts on automated teller machine (ATM) and one-time debit card transactions, unless a consumer consents, or opts in, to the overdraft service for those types of transactions.

If you are considering adding overdraft protection to your bank account, do find out what type of account it is: a line of credit (or credit card) or maybe it's attached to your savings account.   If you are considering a mortgage (or other type of financing where credit scores are considered) you may want to delay obtaining overdraft protection until after your transaction has closed to avoid having your credit score dinged.

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