Wells Fargo, BofA and JPMorgan grant overdraft relief as stimulus checks roll in

(Reuters) – The top U.S. retail banks said on Wednesday they would provide relief to customers who had overdrawn checking accounts, so that they could reap the full benefits of the federal government’s cash stimulus program.

Americans stand to receive payments of up to $1,200 each as part of Congress’ $2.2 trillion aid package meant to stem the fallout from the novel coronavirus outbreak that has shuttered businesses and left more than 10 million people unemployed.

The first wave of the payments began to hit bank accounts through direct deposits this week.

JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) and Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) are pausing collection on negative balances or offering temporary credits to customers who have overdrawn their accounts. Without the relief, the payments would be reduced by the amount of the negative balance, which can include hefty overdraft fees.

The number of checking-account customers with negative balances varies widely each day and often peaks at the end of months, when people face bills, and falls on common paydays, like the 15th.

“We hope this gives them a chance to catch their breath,” JPMorgan spokeswoman Anne Pace said.

Chase and Wells Fargo are also waiving fees for non-customers who come in to cash their checks.

“We encourage customers who receive a stimulus payment check to use mobile deposits or ATMs to deposit the checks if possible,” Wells Fargo said in a statement.

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