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In London's High Court, Mr Justice Andrew Smith has ruled that the fairness of the extra fees can now be decided on by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) - a major defeat for the banks.
This means that customers who faced penalties such as a $60 charge for exceeding their overdraft limit could soon be refunded - a process which would cost banks billions of dollars.
Hundreds of thousands of such claims have already been settled by banks following a widespread consumer revolt on the penalties, beginning in 2006.
Thousands more were also suspended upon the commencement of the High Court case - and are set to be settled following the OFT's verdict.
However, the UK banks are expected to appeal the decision, which could put back claims resolution for years.
Personal finance campaigns manager at consumer group Which?, Doug Taylor, told the BBC that banks should now "refund their customers as soon as possible", however.
"The banks should do the right thing now and concede defeat, agree with the OFT," he told the BBC.
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