Dear ABC News Fixer: Overdraft Outrage

It is essential to teach children about the responsibilities of owning and using credit cards. Getty Images
It is essential to teach children about the responsibilities of owning and using credit cards.

Dear ABC News Fixer: I made reservations at a Sleep Inn & Suites hotel in Valdosta, Ga. When I checked in, I was told I needed to show my I.D. and also a credit or debit card so I'd have a card on file. Before I gave the front desk guy my card, I asked him whether they were going to charge it because I was intending to pay cash. He said no, they wouldn't; it was just to have on file.

The next morning, I noticed online that my card had been charged. I immediately called the front desk. The desk woman told me her colleague shouldn't have promised that they wouldn't use my card.

The hotel ended up refunding the money back to my card and wrote a letter to fax to my bank about the error. The next day I discovered my bank had charged me six overdraft fees. I contacted the hotel again, but they are refusing to pay the fees.

-Earl Perry, Archer, Fla.

Dear Earl: You got the double-whammy of annoying banking issues: the tying up of your card while traveling and the scourge of overdraft fees.

First, the hotel/card issue. As all travelers know, you need a credit or debit card to get a hotel room or a rental car. To guarantee they'll get paid, the hotel will often place a monetary hold on your card. That can limit your access to credit if you don't have a large credit limit. (The same thing happens with gas stations, when people pay at the pump and a large hold stays on for a couple days after the purchase.)

Overdraft fees are another thing that makes the ABC News Fixer crazy. If you're unlucky, one overcharge on your account can trigger an avalanche of fees on pending transactions, and at $35 a pop, that can be significant money. You should know that it's your right to opt out of your bank's overdraft protection program.

It seemed clear to us that all this could have been avoided had the night desk clerk informed the morning crew that you intended to pay in cash. We took your problem to Choice Hotels International, which owns the Sleep Inn brand, and happily, they agreed. They sent you a check for the $210 in overdraft fees and apologized for the trouble.

- The ABC News Fixer

Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.

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