Bank and credit union customers pay a steeper price for overdrawing a checking account in the Tampa Bay region than any other major metro area, according to a survey released Tuesday.
It costs Tampa Bay consumers $34 per overdraft on average, topping longtime metro leaders Miami-Fort Lauderdale and Washington, D.C., according to Moebs $ervices, an economic research firm that specializes in financial services.
Mike Moebs, economist and CEO of his namesake firm, said that there could be an ironic upside to Tampa Bay's unwanted crown.
"I think it shows … the economy of Tampa is rebounding," he said. "Overall, bank and credit union fees are becoming a bellwether. If the economy starts improving, we'll start seeing some shifting" to higher fees.
At the opposite end of the spectrum among Top 25 metros was San Francisco, where overdraft charges as of June data totaled $25 on average.
Nationally, the average overdraft fee for all institutions rose $1 to hit $30.
Delaware overtook longtime leader Florida as the most expensive overdraft state at $34; Florida is now at $32. Cheapest is Kansas at $25.
Several Florida metros, including Tampa Bay, have tended toward higher fees in part because larger, out-of-state banks control most of the deposits statewide.
The megabanks have held steady over the past six months with average overdraft fees of $35. Moebs suggested that could be because the new national consumer protection agency is keeping them in check from more fee spikes.
Instead, regional banks in the $25 billion to $50 billion range showed the biggest price increase with overdraft fees rising from $30 in 2012 to $35 in 2013, a 17 percent jump.
Rising fees have been a boon to payday lenders. Given the median overdrawn balance in any consumer account is for $40, some customers reason they'll wind up ahead if they pay a payday lender $15 for a $100 withdrawal to temporarily cover their squeezed checking account, Moebs said.
Community banks and credit unions remain the cheapest way to go to avoid higher fees — but even there it's a case of borrower beware.
The average credit union overdraft fee has risen steadily over the past three years, from $25 to $28. It's still $2 shy of the average bank fee, however.
"Where can the consumer go to get a decent deal?" Moebs said. "Look to smaller credit unions; look to smaller community banks. But the consumer has to shop, and I strongly recommend they do that."