My wife wrote a check for $8.00 from her checking account, and it took longer than expected for the recipient to cash it, so she temporarily forgot about it, and spent the money that she intended to keep in the account for it. After spending the money, her account balance was less than $8.00, and that is when the recipient tried to cash the check. Then, Chase charged her a $39 "fee" as a penalty. This "fee" caused her balance to go negative. So far, it sounds relatively fair, but Chase did not cover the check. It would have been fair to charge some sort of penalty (as long as it's not too much), if they did cover the check anyway, incurring an overdraft, but it is definitely unfair that they would charge this while still leaving the check unpaid, while the recipient still didn't get his or her money. Chase did not provide any goods or services in exchange for their "fee."
It gets worse. In the meantime, my wife deposited some more money into her checking account, without realizing what was going on. This was enough to bring the balance positive again, but only up to about $6.00 and change. At this time, the recipient's bank tried to run the check one more time, to see if they could get their money. Chase still didn't cover the check, because it was short, this time, by less than $2.00. Remember that the checking account balance would have been over $45.00 if it wasn't for the unfair "fee" they had just charged her a few days prior. This would have been more than enough for the check to have cleared just fine. However, Chase slapped on another $39 fee, for the same check not going through, all the while the recipient still not getting his or her money.
Not only that, Chase slapped on another "fee" of $15 a few days later, as a punishment for having a negative checking account balance for a certain number of days, even though it was because of their two $39 fees that it was negative in the first place! The recipient still didn't get the intended money from the check, and my wife was charged a total of $93, over ten times the amount of the check that bounced, and even though Chase still didn't contribute a penny of their money toward the check (it didn't cost them anything), and they still did not contribute any goods or services in return for this.
No doubt my wife has learned her lesson to watch her balance very closely and to remember every check she has written until it clears, and I'd understand that the bank should have the responsibility of doing something to discourage irresponsible behavior, but I still believe that how they handled this situation was unfair, and excessively punitive. I believe that this behavior of theirs crosses the line into profiting at her expense, and getting rich off the backs of the poor. I believe that this was predatory behavior on Chase's behalf, and the financial equivalent of kicking her when she is down, and taunting her by asking "why don't you get up!?" even though they are the ones who have just been kicking her. It also gives the impression that Chase actually likes it when people mess up like this, so they can profit from the "fees" that they impose as a result.
Only trust Chase with your money if you are sure you are good enough at bookkeeping that you can avoid making mistakes like this, ever!