Under federal law your bank can charge a penalty fee whenever checks are presented against payment for your account and the account holds insufficient funds to cover those items. However, if a check bounces due to a bank error, you can ask your bank to refund the amount of the overdraft fee. If a check bounces due to your error or miscalculation, then your bank has no obligation to refund the overdraft fee, but some banks may do so as a courtesy.
Reconcile your bank statement and your check register to determine the reason for your bounced check. If a check bounced because the bank deposited your last deposit into the wrong account or for any other reason related to a bank error, then find your last deposit receipt and any other evidence that proves that you were not to blame. Go in person to your local bank and ask to have the fee removed from your account and ask your bank to write a letter to the person who you wrote the bounced check to state that your were not responsible for the check bouncing.
Review the deposit account agreement that you were given when you opened your account if you, rather than your bank, are to blame for the check bouncing. Many banks provide account holders with perks like one-time overdraft fee waivers. Check your deposit agreement to see if you are entitled to any such waiver as a perk of your account, and if you are, contact your bank and exercise your right to have the fee waived. Banks do not waive fees unless you make a specific request to have the bank do so.
Go to the bank in person to speak with the branch manager if you discover you are not entitled to any overdraft fee waivers. Explain to the manager that you accept full responsibility for the overdraft, but, based on your good account history, you would like to request a courtesy fee waiver. If the bank manager refuses, suggest that you may move your account elsewhere, and if that fails you can try going to another branch and making the same request.
You can eliminate overdraft fees for one-time debit card purchases by opting-out of your bank's standard overdraft procedures. This means your bank will not approve any over-limit debit card purchases and that you incur no overdraft or non-sufficient funds fees when you attempt to make debit card purchases without having funds in your account. However, you cannot opt-in or out of fees for check processing, although many banks offer overdraft protection in the form of a linked credit card or savings account.
In many states you actually violate state law when you write a check without having sufficient funds in your account to cover the check. Therefore, even though some banks waive penalty fees as a courtesy, many other banks strictly enforce these fees. Additionally, federal laws do not limit the amount a bank can charge you for bouncing a check. As a rule, most banks attempt to re-deposit bounced checks the following business day, and a bank can charge you a second overdraft fee if the check bounces for a second time.