Following President Joe Biden’s reference in the State of the Union address to reducing bank overdraft and credit card late fees, industry trade groups said the president had provided “misleading” information about the fees.

During Tuesday’s speech to Congress, Biden pointed to proposed legislation known as the Junk Fee Protection Act that would reduce unexpected fees from financial institutions, entertainment ticket sales, airlines, hotels and other industries.

“Look, junk fees may not matter to the very wealthy, but they matter to most other folks in homes like the one I grew up in, like many of you did,” Biden said in his speech. “They add up to hundreds of dollars a month.”

The comments around junk fees included references to the Biden administration’s efforts around reducing bank overdraft fees and credit card fees. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has targeted bank overdraft fees in recent years and last week introduced a proposal to reduce credit card late fees.

The American Bankers Association said on its website following Biden’s speech that the president had “repeated a misleading message” that overdraft and late payment fees are hidden expenses.

“As ABA has pointed out on numerous occasions, the fees ‘are highly regulated and fully disclosed to consumers by law,’” the ABA said. “Moreover – unlike resort fees or ticket surcharges that Biden also discussed – consumers can choose to avoid them while using bank accounts.”

The CFPB last week proposed a rule that would change how financial institutions charge credit card fees, including reducing late fees, which can currently go up to $30 for an initial late payment and $41 for subsequent late payments.

The National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions said in response to Biden’s speech that the majority of Americans would not see cost savings from the lower fees because they do not make late payments. The NAFCU added that these consumers would still be affected by the lower fees since credit card issuers would have to increase costs in other ways.

“President Biden and the CFPB are not giving Americans the full picture of what the credit card late fees proposal will actually mean for their pocketbooks,” NAFCU President and CEO Dan Berger said in the statement. “Consumers rely on safe, reliable short-term credit to afford daily life. This rule will severely restrict the market for credit cards, making those products harder to qualify for and increasing the cost of all other financial products and services. For Americans with low credit scores or lower incomes, this rule would cripple their ability to achieve any sense of financial security.”

The Independent Community Bankers of America said in a statement that Biden’s use of the term “junk fees” misrepresented banks’ overdraft protection services and how community banks meet customers’ credit card needs.

“Community banks provide a wide range of products and services that customers may select to address situations in which they’ve overdrawn their account, including overdraft programs, free ad hoc solutions, alerts about their account status, account transfers, and more,” ICBA CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey said in a statement. “Community banks offer credit cards under contracts that consumers voluntarily enter into and that feature clearly disclosed late fees that deter late payments, help offset issuer costs, and represent a small portion of customers’ credit card costs.”

Romero Rainey said the ICBA would continue to work with the Biden administration “to mitigate the negative impact of CFPB rulemakings and to avoid further mischaracterizations.”

Banking Industry Reacts to Biden ‘Junk Fees’ Jab

by Diane McLaughlin time to read: 2 min