Higher One aims to make its checking account fees and terms more transparent and simpler for consumers to understand. The move is part of recommendations made by the Pew Charitable Trust, “Safe Checking in the Electronic Age,” that calls for financial institutions to standardize their disclosure forms.
Higher One’s suite of checking accounts is offered as a part of its refund management disbursement service. The company’s automated process provides students with up to three choices to receive their financial aid refunds, which may include direct deposit to any domestic bank account, a paper check in the mail or a direct deposit into any checking account in the OneAccount Suite.
Higher One’s OneAccount has no monthly fees and no minimum balance requirement, the company says.
As a part of its commitment to transparency, Higher One announced the following with regard to its three checking account options:
Standardized transparency: Higher One is working to develop the Pew-recommended fee-schedule form for all three of its accounts, which enables consumers to compare bank accounts across the market more easily.
Elimination of Lack of Documentation Fees: This fee has been eliminated on all accounts. It was a fee charged to less than 2% of OneAccount holders when each did not provide adequate documentation as required by the U.S. Patriot Act.
Elimination of PIN-based fees: The company has eliminated these fees from two of the three OneAccount options. Previously Higher One had charged a .50 cent fee for a PIN-based transaction on those accounts and that still exists on the basic OneAccount. The company’s two other accounts don’t charge for PIN-based transactions but do charge a monthly fee ranging from $5.95 to $8.95.
No overdraft protection or credit line: Higher One does not offer overdraft protection on any accounts. This is a form of credit and Higher One has never issued any lines of credit to customers. Higher One does still have a $29 non-sufficient funds fee if a student writes a check or has a recurring payment set up on an account that doesn’t have the funds available, says a company spokesperson. If a student attempts to make a debit transaction using the card and the funds are not available they will not be charged the fee, instead the transaction will be declined.
ATM commitment: All Higher One account users can conduct balance inquiries and withdrawals for free at any Higher One ATM. Higher One has installed more than 700 ATMs nationally. As always, should a campus’s Higher One ATMs not be operational due to any maintenance or repair issues or be out of cash at any time, Higher One reimburses OneAccount holders at their request for up to $5 per day for fees charged at other ATMs, the company states.
Higher One has been criticized in the past for some of its fees and a report from the Public Interest Research Group has brought more scrutiny.
A Higher One spokesperson says this is just the first step the company is taking and additional changes to accounts will be announced in the near future.