‘Tis the season of consumer refunds.
In coming weeks, more than $425 million in refunds and restitution will go out to millions of consumers nationwide, thanks to a recent round of crackdowns on deceptive credit card practices.
Another $410 million from Bank of America is already landing in pockets of millions who got stuck with excessive debit card fees.
In most cases, no one will get rich off these settlements. In fact, folks will likely get back just pennies on the dollar.
Behind some of the payouts is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency launched in July 2011 to play “neighborhood cop” in policing the consumer financial market, everything from mortgages to student loans to credit cards.
Working with other federal agencies, the bureau this summer and fall ordered American Express, Capital One and Discover to return a combined $425 million to consumers, primarily for misleading sales tactics.
“We think this is definitely a case of enforcement getting better,” said Bill Hardekopf, CEO of credit card comparison site LowCards.com, who follows the credit card industry.
Consumers don’t need to do anything to get their money. The companies are required to contact customers, whose refunds will be automatically deposited into an existing account. If they’re not a current customer, they’ll be mailed a check.
But be on the lookout if you think you’re eligible. The checks are easy to mistake for junk mail. For instance, the Bank of America refund check comes as a small, white fold-over card with a bar code on the front. The return address name is likely unfamiliar: “Rust Consulting Inc.,” which is identified as the “Checking Account Overdraft Administrator.”
If you get a BofA check, don’t delay in cashing it: It’s void in 180 days.
Here’s a list of some of the recent refunds under way: