Banker turns pastor preaches evil of overdraft fees

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Thou shall not steal.

Methodist pastor Jesse Rogers says it's a sin, what the people who control your money are able to get away with.

But he's not just passing judgment from on high.

He's a former bank exec with decades of experience.

"I have a lot of friends in the banking industry," Rogers says. "I spent 33 years in it. I made a very good living from it. And I would just as soon not have them as an adversary. But I can not help but see these things going on and try to take a stand."

Rogers spent many years in transaction processing at big banks.

"My true friends there see the same types of things that I do," he says. "But they're not in a position to do anything about it."

Rogers, however, is in a unique one.

He knows the tricks of the trade and says his new role in life means he has an obligation to fight them. Rogers says every time you swipe your check card, it's an opportunity for a bank to turn on you.

"It's the idea of fee maximization. What they're trying to do is find ways to generate as much fee income as possible through whatever means possible."

Rogers says banks juggle your transactions in a way to optimize overdraft charges, instead of rejecting a sale.

"So they're saying this may or may not come through, but if we can generate an overdraft charge from it, we'll treat it as if it will," he explains.

And the solution's not as simple as keeping track of your charges - because some of them, you don't even know about.

When you use your check card at, say, a gas station, that gas station's bank can put a hold on your account without telling you. And while that hold will disappear, your bank can briefly use it as ammunition...boom, you're overdrawn.

Rogers says that's just one trick of the trade - there are others.

"It bothers me that in a lot of cases you find these same managers that are making the decision to this type of thing in church on Sundays," he says, shaking his head.

Rogers says he's tried talking to them.

"Nothing has happened. Things are only getting worse."

Rogers says there are two things you can do to try to protect yourself.

"Tell your bank, do not in any circumstance allow me to make a purchase or allow any purchase to come through that would cause an overdraft situation," he says.

And second, consider letting up on your check card use. When banks began hiking interest on credit cards, consumers dropped them like hot potatoes. But you do have more control when it comes to your charges on them. The things is, you have to pay them in full each month.

"If you're going to use a credit card to get around these types of manipulations," Rogers suggest, "make sure you use it in a way where you can manage it online as much as possible. So that as soon as a credit card transaction shows up on your account, you transfer the money from checking account to the credit card account, to cover it."

Stay tuned for more on Rogers and overdraft fees.