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Wintrust Financial’s Banks Charge Multiple NSF Fees Class Action

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Branch of Town Bank

This class action is one of a number filed in the past year or so on the topic of multiple non-sufficient funds (NSF) fees charged for a single transaction request. In this case, the complaint says that Wintrust Financial Corporation, through its banks, levies multiple NSF fees on a single item in breach of its account agreements and the Wisconsin Deceptive Trade Practices Act (WDTPA).

A class and a subclass have been proposed for this action.

  • The Multiple NSF Class is all Wintrust checking account holders who, during the statute of limitations, were charged more than one NSF fee on the same item.
  • The Wisconsin Subclass is all Wintrust checking account holders in Wisconsin who, during the statute of limitations, were charged more than one NSF fee on the same item

Wintrust is a large Illinois and Wisconsin banking company that has fifteen wholly-owned banking subsidiaries, including Town Bank, Barrington Bank & Trust Company, Crystal lake Bank & Trust Company, Wintrust Bank, and many others. Although the charges at issue in this case were assessed by Town Bank, the complaint assumes that the bank has uniform policies and account documents at all of its subsidiaries.

When an account holder tries to complete a transaction in an account that does not have sufficient funds, Wintrust’s Deposit Agreement permits it to do one of two things: (1) authorize the transaction and charge a single $35 overdraft fee, or (2) reject the transaction and charge a single $35 NSF fee. However, in reality, the complaint says, the bank may charge two or more NSF fees on that single transaction request. 

This is because after the transaction is rejected, the complaint claims, the bank will retry the transaction at a time of its own choosing and, if it is rejected again, it will charge another NSF fee, as if it is another transaction.

This is not a universal practice among banks. The complaint points out that Chase only charges one NSF no matter how many times it elects to process a transaction. And while other banks may do it, they generally write this possibility into their account agreements. 

Plaintiff Timothy Pope tried to make a $37.67 electronic payment by ACH on January 6, 2017. His account did not contain enough money to process the transaction, so Wintrust refused it and charged him a $35 NSF fee. Pope does not dispute this fee.

However, five days later, without any request by Pope, the bank elected to try the transaction again. The account still did not contain the funds to complete the transaction so the bank rejected its own request for reprocessing and charged Pope another $35 NSF fee. 

In other words, Wintrust charged Pope $70 not to process an item of around half that much. The complaint alleges that the second NSF fee is not permitted by its account agreement.

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