Bounced Check Fees

Alrighty folks -- this is a bit of a time-sensitive post, so I would appreciate any and all responses... I get paid via check every Friday. That day, I always deposit my check into my own bank account and go on about my business. Most of my bills are set up on auto-pay (come out on a certain date of the month), and I can practically always predict what my balance is.

Well, this past week, apparently my paycheck bounced. Like most people, I do live paycheck-to-paycheck and just don't have a ton of extra cash in my bank account. I incurred a "charge back" fee because their check for me didn't clear (I don't understand that, but it's a pretty standard bank procedure, apparently). Since I am signed up for auto-pay, my phone company did attempt to deduct my phone bill from my account... the money wasn't there, so I got a "return check" fee. I also had a credit card payment set up... and incurred another "return check" fee. Plus, since my account went into the negative (due to the fees), I have overdraft charges. Oy vey!

The family didn't have a problem writing me another check, but I wasn't sure how to bring up the fees. In my opinion, it's not my fault that the money wasn't in my account, and they should pay for my fees... any advice on how to bring it up, or is there anyone who thinks I shouldn't be owed the money? If it was only $20, I wouldn't even bother, but it totals nearly half my paycheck. I'm really trying to do the right thing here... Thank you in advance!


MissDee said...

Tough situation. It makes you wonder if the bank made an error (it can happen) or if M and DB made the error themselves (I have done it before) or if they have poor money management skills.

First thing I would do is try to get the bank and people you owe to reverse the NSF fees, along with additional overdraft charges you may have received. Technically yes, you accepted the check as is, however, you accepted the check on good faith and didn't know it was worthless at the time of acceptance.

Has this kind of thing happened before, or was it just a random thing? Is their bank different from yours? Either way, I would first stop by their bank and ask the teller to verify the funds are in the account prior to cashing. Explain that you are concerned about the funds being available, as it is a two party check. Cash the check at their bank and deposit the cash into your account, or go to your bank and ask the teller if she can call their bank to verify funds. (Banks have done this for me before)

I am thinking of not telling them anything about what happened: perhaps they realize they made a mistake and are too embarassed to admit. If it happens again, I would let them know this is unacceptable and you feel as though they are cheating you.

I have dealt with this situation before; tell us what happens!

Phoenix said...

banks are tricky, especially now that they had to re-do their fees. more often than not the employer is the one who shoule remiburse you but it is not a law, it is common courtesy.

maybe they assmed you had enough money in your account to cover. That doesn't make it right but they may be ignorant. What is a $35fee to them?

Manhattan Nanny said...

I definitely think they should cover the fees you incurred as a result of them giving you a bad check. Can you go to your Bank's on line site and print out your account activity from the deposit of their check through the subsequent charges? Highlight the check and the fees. Give them a copy and ask them to cover it. (Black out your account #.) It was probably an honest mistake. I think they would have postdated the check and asked you to wait to deposit it if they knew there was a problem. Still, they shouldn't expect you to pay the consequences.

Kat said...

I'm with Manhattan Nanny, I'd also tell them that you want paid in cash next pay day. If they have a problem with that then quit.

la said...

They need to pay those fees! I know it's easier said than done, but jeez. It's only fair. It was their screw up, not yours. But to be honest, they probably won't. My family wouldn't.

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

I have been in this type of situation many times and even now, I always cringe when a parent writes me a check. I prefer cash payment, but I understand not a lot of working parents want the hassle of going to the ATM every Friday.

I think it is unfair of banks to charge the person who received the check since he or she received it in good faith and wasn't trying to scam the bank. I have had my bank not only charge me for a bad check, but they also have stopped giving me money access to future checks until those checks cleared. So unfair!!

OP, I think the family should offer to pay you AT LEAST for the fee that was incurred for the bounced check. That should NOT have to come out of your pocket. However, regarding the bills you were supposed to pay, while I agree they should pay you for the fees you incurred, I wouldn't hold my breath.

I think that from now on they should pay you in cash. It may be more of a hassle for them, however they put themselves in this situation. If they still insist on paying you via check, I would be nervous each time I deposited the check in my account. Perhaps you can just go to their bank and cash it in person. What a hassle that will be, I know how busy banks are on Fridays since a lot of people get paid that day. If this job is great and this is your only issue, then it might be worth it to cash your checks via personal teller.

Sorry this happened to you OP. This sucks.


ericsmom said...

Why not cash their checks from now on, at their bank. That way you get the money in your hand right then and there. No need to worry if it will bounce or not if you do that. The teller can tell you if the money is there or not. If they don't have the money in the account, you can always call them. Let them know you are at their bank and they will not let you cash the check.

katch said...

If this happened with my family, I would explain to them that I was relying on their payments to be regular, and explain the consequences of the bounced cheque. I'd like to think that they would offer to pay the fees, but I don't think that I could ask them to do it. Whilst I also live pay to pay, I feel it's my responsibility to have a safety net of savings just in case something goes wrong.

Having said that, perhaps you could ask for a week advance in case it ever happens again? I'm thinking of a lump sum of money that you don't spend, but agree to pay back before you leave. If for some reason the pay does not go through (which is sometimes nobody's fault) then nobody has to suffer.

Beg said...

I usually call my bank if that happens. Which it has in the past. Sometimes I just beg them an tell them I can afford the over draft fees. Some banks will reverse it if you can prove it wasn't your fault. So if you say I got a paycheck as a nanny that bounced- they might clear it. Good luck.

Zzmon said...

Most banks allow you to set up direct electronic transfers to other bank accounts. That's how we paid our nanny. It was easier for all of us (no ATM, no check cashing!). Ask them to do this. And they should pay all of your fees, but I would call the bank and see if they will reverse some of the charges.

Village said...

The answer is yes. I think the timing would have been better to present the overcharge fees with documentation at the same time as the information about the bounced check, but as that time has passed do it as soon as possible.

Whether the nanny gets the push back on not, I would request that payment be made either by direct deposit or cash. No more checks. If the nanny gets push back on that, I'm not sure it's a good idea to have auto deductions if you don't know when the next check will bounce, because once it happens, the chances are pretty high it will happen again.

The nanny check is obviously not a high priority.

RahRah said...

Sorry for the typos, I'm on my phone and didn't preview before I posted!

Nashville Nanny said...

I always insist on cash payments or direct deposit. In the past, I would allow employers to write me checks and had an issue with them not always being honored. The problem with going to your employers bank (if it is not your own) is that more and more banks are charging you a check cashing fee. Some as high as $5. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not interested in paying $20 a month to cash my check at my boss' bank.

As far as all of the fees you incurred because of this, I would print out copies of everything and present it to your MB&DB. It isn't fair that you get stuck with them.

christine said...

I've had my bank over turn fees... you could try that. I'd tell my boss what happened, present them with a print out of the fees incurred because of them and ask them to refund the money if your bank won't.

I would also let them know that it was a huge inconvenience and ask for cash from this point forward. If they refuse, tell them you are going to call their bank before you deposit their check from now on to make sure the funds are available. Banks will tell you over the phone if a check is good or not.

These people should NOT be upset with you and if they do become angry, get rid of them. If they bounce one check, they will bounce another.

Nanny CA said...

I had a similar situation happen in the past... I could not get my bosses to pay for THEIR mistake because they said it was poor planning on my part. It was 'stale mate.' What ended up happening is we each split the cost of the fees in half. I paid half, they paid half. No, it wasn't ideal but at least it was something. Just something to think about in case they aren't agreeable to paying the fees THEY are responsible for.

♥ Amy Darling ♥ said...

That is true that if you try to cash the check at your Boss's bank, you will also have to pay a check cashing fee.

I think Wells Fargo doesn't charge one, but others do.

To keep things simple either use direct deposit or ask for cash payment from now on.

You shouldn't have to stress about this....I am sorry you are.

MissMannah said...

I kind of agree with Nanny CA's employers. It is poor planning on your part and that's why you got charged all these fees. Now I understand living paycheck to paycheck, I've been there. But you need to set up some sort of savings account so you'll be covered. My bank does a direct debit from savings to checking so I won't get overdrafted. I don't think it should be the parents' responsibility to pay for your fees...EXCEPT the bank one for the bounced check. That wasn't your fault at all. But many times the bank will overturn the fee for a first time offense. If they refuse, you need to get the parents to pay you back. But if it was me, I'd just quit because if they write you a bad check once, odds are they'll do it again.

Z said...

This happened to me before, and I'm not sure if this was the right way to handle it, but this is what I did.

I told them the check had bounced, they immediately wrote me another one but I didn't know how to bring up the bank fees. I was honestly hoping they would ask about it, since I figured they would know that banks charge fees for that.

Since they didn't mention it, I brought in the letter from the bank that included the fees and gave it to them. I said, "I thought you might want this for your records," or something like that. On my next paycheck, they had covered my bank fees and I told them I really appreciated it.

Looking back, I guess this was a little underhanded, I wish I had had the balls to just talk to them, but it worked...they weren't trying to screw me, they honestly didn't even think about bank fees.

Z said...

BTW, I do not think the overdraft fees are your fault either. You should be able to count on your paycheck going through every time. That is the responsibility of every employer.

I need a break said...

I had an employer bounce a check once. I just told them they needed to reissue it and if I had any other fees I would let them know. Grow some people, you shouldn't be out $$ for their mistake.

nycmom said...

No question they should pay for the first bounced check fee. As a parent, I would also pay for your other fees assuming they happened with 1-2 days of each other.

However, as a responsible adult, I do not think you should be living so close to the edge without some sort of warning system. I get that you may not be able to build up any savings, though having grown up like this, I would *never* live that close to the edge again myself. However, most banks have some safety mechanisms you can build in such as an overdraft so you don't immediately incur extra fees and/or text/phone or other immediate notification at the FIRST bank fee such that you can act fast to make sure you prevent others.

Also, if you do live this close to the edge, I don't think auto deduct for your bills is a great idea for exactly the reason you encountered. All it takes is ONE flaw in the system and it all falls apart. I would sit down with a customer service rep at the bank to address all these issues: removing some/all of the fees (this is almost always done for a first offense), setting up an overdraft system, setting up immediate alert for the first bounced check or fee, stopping auto debits.

Z said...

nyc mom, I'm very happy for you that you don't have to live close to the edge and you can afford the luxury of keeping a larger balance in your checking account. However, you need to realize that not all of us have the means to do anything else but live paycheck to paycheck. It has nothing to do with being a responsible adult, it is all about how much money you have coming in vs how much is going out.

nycmom said...

I disagree. I grew up in extreme poverty, as did many people I knew. My parents were very irresponsible and thus left themselves no safety net. My best friends' parents were fairly responsible, despite earning less, and avoided many of the problems we had. You can be poor and responsible about it, by taking some of the simple measures I suggested -- none of which involved actually HAVING more money, just managing it better.

There are many hardships in life I may not understand. Poverty (especially the irresponsible kind) is not one of them. I grew up with maggots in my kitchen, welfare cheese, not having enough food, being teased for clothes with holes, and parents who took no responsibility for any of that. First thing I did at 11yo was start babysitting as often as I could. As soon as I could legally work at 14yo, I began cleaning vacation villas. I never again relied on my parents and paid my own way through life. I also never bounced a check or lived paycheck to paycheck. Nor will I ever allow myself to be in that situation. I understand there may be circumstances beyond my control, such as illness, which place me there. But then I will take steps to ensure I am handling that as responsibly as possible. I just don't believe in making excuses for poor money management, regardless of your income.

Nanny Tara said...


I strongly disagree that just because someone lives paycheck to paycheck implies they have no money management skills. Rubbish, I say.

Many folks live paycheck to paycheck...they would like to save and have a safety net, however sometimes it just isn't possible because they don't make enough.

OP, many people do what you do. They count on their working income to pay their bills on time and all. No one should have to "plan" for a check not to clear. People keep saying how working as a nanny is a job just like any other job and in all jobs people count on their income to pay the rent, buy food, pay bills, etc. Why should the nanny income be any different? An employer is an employer, right?

OP, you did nothing wrong here. Plenty of people who work expect to be paid in a timely manner and since you were not, you were screwed big time. I say the family pays your bank fees.

I need a break said...

I agree with nycmom, I think all she meant was we all make a certain amount and we need to manage that amount. If something is not working for you then change it. Perhaps you have a lot of credit card debt( which is only your fault), maybe you can find cheaper rent, make small changes. I pay my own health insurance, rent, paid off my car and I still have at least 2 years safety net in the bank. So I agree it's all about management.

Workingmom said...

Nanny Tara,

nycmom is not saying that living paycheck to paycheck implies poor money management skills; she can relate to the OP's financial situation, and is giving helpful, usefull advice how to manage her financial situation better so that she has more control over it.

I need a break said...

Just for the record though as I stated earlier I think your employers definitely owe any charges you incurred. They also should live within their means and not be bouncing checks.

christine said...

The OP managed her finances perfectly! She worked, set up a system through her bank to get her bills paid on time and only had problems when her employers planned poorly with their finances and didn't have enough money in the bank to PAY her. It seems, at least to me, that the employers are guilty of poor financial planning. Perhaps they should have a larger reserve or overdraft protection to make sure they can pay their help.

While I agree that it is a good idea to have money in the bank in case of emergency, like your car breaks down or you need to travel because of a family emergency, this wasn't the OP's emergency... poor planning on the part of the employer caused it to be the nanny's emergency. They owe her the bank fees and a very big appology for causing her grief. And, if it ever came down to a lawsuit, I'm sure a judge would rule in her favor.

Susannah said...

I find it amazing that several people here are experts on OP's financial situation from the little she put here. Absolutely amazing!

Yes, they should cover at minimum the fees caused by the bounced check, but I wouldn't be surprised if they don't.

I would also insist on being paid in cash from now on.

Bethany said...

The problem with what some of you have suggested is that most banks I know that offer all those protections are the bigger banks that charge a ton of fees and require a minimum daily balance to avoid monthly fees. Monthly fees that OP probably cannot handle right now.

The only thing I would agree with is to ditch the automatic bill pay. Set your phone or whatever to remind you to pay on time.

Bethany said...

i would talk to them about the check fee that's about it.

I'd be concerned about continuing working for them if it happens once it can happen again.

Payment issues are one of my dealbreakers.

If you stay I would insist on cash payment.

Mannhattan Nanny said...

I can't believe this has become an attack on the OP for poor money management. Her employer passed a bad check people, that is a crime! The poor money management is on the part of her employer!
We have no idea what her financial situation is or what options her bank provides.
If the balance in the employer's checking account won't cover the check, an electronic transfer for that amount won't go through either. And why should she have to go through the hassle of going to their bank, or even calling it? As for savings, they belong in an interest bearing account, not a checking account.

OP, You do need to look into overdraft protection. Most banks provide overdraft protection if you have savings or CD accounts linked to your checking account. Make an appointment to talk to a financial adviser at your bank, and research interest rates at other banks. You may find you can get a better deal by moving to another bank.

Bethany said...

Didn't mean to sound like I was scolding ,OP.

I just know what it's like to have limited banking options.

I've also had a bad experience with automatic bill pay. I like having control of when money comes out of my account.

That is all.

To Love, To Rescue said...

At the end of the day - they screwed up, not you. You would not have any fees to pay if their check hadn't bounced. The fees should be on them. And if they're responsible bosses that are willing to be accountable, they should cover them for you.

I think you should ask them to cover all the fees. That conversation is probably going to suck. They might say no. But if I were you, I would still ask because they are in the wrong here, not you.

LAnanny said...

Not even talking about the OP really, but I strongly believe in having a little money in the bank at all times (unless an emergency comes up, which is what it's there for.)

People say they can't afford to, but you could turn off cable/internet, eat only at home/when nannying, etc for a few months until you can breathe easy. It can be super difficult at first, but I feel so good having money in the bank in case something were to happen.

MissMannah said...

LAnanny, exactly what I was saying. This isn't an "attack" on the OP or her money management skills, this is a chance for some of us who have been there to educate her. She seems young to me, based on her writing, so this is vital information she will need to know. Having an emergency fund in the bank is very important, not because you can't trust your employers to pay you accurately, but because emergencies do arise. I also think it would be a good idea for OP to try to stagger her bills throughout the month so they aren't all coming out at the same time. What if she pays all her bills, leaving her account very low, and then her car breaks down the next day? Or she gets very sick and has to go to the doctor and miss work? These are all scenarios responsible adults must keep in mind when managing their finances.

Tabs said...

Exactly! @ MissMannah
*stagger your bills

Exactly! @ LAnanny
*budget to save / make cuts

Exactly! @ Bethany
*control your account

(I liked the other things you guys wrote, but *these* things I wholly agree with.)

luckoftheirish said...

The person who wrote the worthless check should pay all related fees. OP doesnt have a money management issue. She has a boss who writes wortless checks issue. From here on out, Id accept cash only. GL