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Ken Tumin founded the Bank Deals Blog in 2005 and has been passionately covering the best deposit deals ever since. He is frequently referenced by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications as a top expert, but he is first and foremost a fellow deal seeker and member of the wonderful community of savers that frequents DepositAccounts.

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Will New Checking Account Fees Have Any Effect on Bank of America?

POSTED ON BY

I’m not sure how Bank of America does it, but they continue to have millions of customers. According to the Federal Reserve, Bank of America is the largest bank in the U.S. in terms of assets. Total assets are $2.276 trillion as of 3/31/2011. Note, that’s trillion which is 1,000 billion. I’m not sure of the source, but according to this Wikipedia BofA entry, Bank of America "has a relationship with 99% of the U.S."

For the majority of BofA’s checking account customers, it might have been the large branch network that pulled them in. Many readers of this blog may have become BofA customers when BofA acquired Countrywide, LaSalle Bank or other past banks. Other readers of this blog may have become a Bank of America customer due to past deals. They used to offer many checking account bonuses, and there used to be ways to get top rates on a Bank of America money market account (NEA members can still get decent rates). Also, some readers were able to profit from Bank of America’s Keep the Change Program.

Once people join, inertia often keeps them customers even when they no longer are receiving any good deals. Bank of America does offer one of the better online banking services, so that may help Bank of America keep customers.

Today’s Poll: Are You a Past or Present Bank of America Customer?

For today’s poll, do you still have an account at Bank of America? Or did you used to have a Bank of America account? Or are you one of the few Americans who have always been able to avoid Bank of America. If you are still a customer, what has kept you a customer?

Higher Fees

Some recent changes at Bank of America may help overcome this inertia. New fees on Bank of America’s MyAccess Checking Account took effect yesterday. The monthly maintenance fee has gone up from $8.95 to $12.00. According to the BofA personal schedule of fees:

Effective with statement cycles beginning on or after May 24, 2011, the monthly maintenance fee changes to: $12.00

Also, it’s harder to have this fee waived. Any direct deposit used to qualify. Now it must be at least $250. From the fee schedule:

Have at least one qualifying direct deposit of $250 or more made to your account each statement cycle

An average daily balance of $1,500 remains as another way to avoid this fee. These changes look similar to the new fees at Chase Bank.

There also have been a change for the worse with the Keep the Change Program. Bank of America will no longer provide the 5% match for the savings-to-checking transfers that occur when you use your debit card. However, they still have the 100% promotional match for the first 3 months. Since the 5% match was never that good of a deal, this doesn’t have much effect on the program especially for bonus chasers.

We may see more fees and fewer perks at Bank of America as new regulation impacts past sources of fee revenue. Bank of America and many banks used to make a lot from overdrafts, but regulations have forced them to change overdraft policies. In fact, Bank of America just recently settled an overdraft lawsuit. I’ll be surprised if Bank of America keeps the 100% 3-month match on the Keep the Change Program when the new debit card interchange fee regulation takes effect.

Free Checking Alternatives

With credit unions, community banks and internet banks, there’s no reason to pay maintenance fees at Bank of America or any other mega bank. Three internet banks that offer free checking accounts are ING Direct, Incredible Bank and Ally Bank. Ally would be the best choice if you want paper checks.

For credit unions, Alliant Credit Union has one of the best free checking accounts.

And don’t forget that the vast majority of high-yield reward checking accounts are also free checking accounts with no monthly fees even if you don’t meet the debit card usage requirements. If you’re new to reward checking, my post on the 10 common traits of high-yield reward checking accounts should be useful. There are still many local deals that are better than what’s available nationwide. You can find these in our reward checking account rate table. Be sure to use the "Filter Accounts" button above the table to compare accounts in your state.


  Tags: Bank of America, checking account

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Comments
Comment #1 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
You can also get their eBanking account which doesn't have fees provided you do everything online or at an ATM. Use a teller at a branch for something that CAN be done online or at an ATM will cost you $9.

5
Comment #2 by mrvirgo posted on
mrvirgo
The only reason I keep My Access checking account open is that I have (according to the rep with whom I spoke) a “permanent waiver” which frees me of any charges as long as the account is active.  It sounds as  if the no-fees promo has been grandfathered for life. If the bank changes its policy, I close the account; it’s that simple.

2
Comment #3 by Dave (anonymous) posted on
Dave
I have been BofA checking acct customer since 1983, and a very happy customer.   Yes, their online banking and bill-paying is excellent!   Not to mention you can find an ATM anywhere.

Dave in California

1
Comment #4 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
> The only reason I keep My Access checking account open is that I have
> (according to the rep with whom I spoke) a “permanent waiver” which frees
> me of any charges as long as the account is active.

I had those permanent ("VIP") waivers on 3 BOA accounts (1 checking, 1 joint checking, and 1 savings) for going on 10 years now -- I didn't carry any significant balances (never more than $3,000 across all 3 accounts) -- it was just "useful" to have a relationship with BOA.

Last month I got 3 letters (individually mailed but received on the same day) starting with: "We occasionally reevaluate our account terms..." and BOA was kind enough to communicate (up front!) they were going to be charging me a total of $36/month for the accounts going forward.

I went to the branch to close the accounts; the guy that had originally set me up as "VIP" was no longer there (it has been 10 years).

The rep half-heartedly asked if there's any way to save my business (sounded scripted), but he was not able to restore the "VIP" setting they had promised me "forever" back in 2001.  He said he had been closing a lot of accounts that week and there wasn't anything he could do.

So I no longer have any BOA accounts.  Hope you have better luck!

13
Comment #5 by DataIsGold (anonymous) posted on
DataIsGold
My parents were with Bank of America so naturally when I started working I opened my account with them as well.  I have since moved on. My wife opened a MyAccess account for the bonuses, they sent her a letter saying they would start charging a monthly fee so we went and closed the account.

3
Comment #6 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I also have this checking account with BofA. I might change it to their electronic account that doesn't have this fee in the future if I decide not to bother with the direct deposit into it. Now, I use the account to accumulate enough each month to pay the rent. I have a lot of checks from them still.

I really like BofA's Bill Pay. I use other banks accounts as funding sources to pay for my BofA visa and other bills all the time. No other bill pay allows that, as far as I know.

Another thing I respect a lot is BofA's SafePass (for credit cards). It's not a checking account thing directly, but it keeps me almost strangely "attached" to this bank.

And I just never had any issues with BofA making any mistakes with my money. I like their mobile banking, which is improving, I like their login safety features with the option to be texted for a code if I try to log in from a new computer.

Now, I'll have to be careful to avoid fees. My savings are elsewhere, incurring the best interest I could find. But BofA is still a very useful bank, for me.

3
Comment #7 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
It used to be that pretty much anywhere I travelled I could find a BofA, but now I have ING and their ATM's are just as frequent. I refuse to pay a monthly fee and now that ING is hinting about being able to make remote deposits, I guess it's so long Bank of America....

4
Comment #8 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I called in to close my MyAccess checking account and the CSR told me about their eBanking checking account.  The CSR told me that there's no fee unless I make a deposit or withdrawal with a teller in a branch.  I use them for the convenience of having ATMs everywhere, so this worked for me.  Once Ally rolls out remote deposit for me though I won't have much reason left to use BoA.

1
Comment #9 by mschoenf posted on
mschoenf
BofA checking is useful for the odd time you may need to go in a branch to deposit a check or withdraw cash in small bills for some purpose such as traveling to a third world country that accepts dollars.  I keep it because I like their online banking and billpay and for the odd time I may need quick turnaround on a check deposited (if you are a long time customer, you can avoid any holds by depositing in branch and talking to manager) or want a roll of Presidential dollar coins or 100s for a Vegas trip.  If one needs to fulfill the direct deposit, an ACH will probably work.  If that is too much trouble, then probably you don't need the account anyway and bofa doesn't care if you close it since they aren't making money off you. 

2
Comment #10 by willtp (anonymous) posted on
willtp
Since my direct deposit at B of A has been Social Security, which is always less than $250 per month, I just made a quick switch of my B of A checking from My Access to E-banking over the phone with a customer service rep.  B of A's feature of membership in the ATM Global Alliance is a good deal which allows you to use your B of A ATM or Debit Card in foreign countries at particular foreign banks that are members of the ATM Global Alliance without paying any ATM fee.  I find this a good feature since traveler's checks are now pretty much dodos, and when you need local foreign currency when traveling, you want it when needed, at the lowest possible fee.

1
Comment #11 by adityanm posted on
adityanm
I get free checking and up to 2 savings because I have mortgage with them. I lihe their keep the change to ger $0.99 everyday.

1
Comment #12 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I still have an account with BofA which is the result of several bank merger actions with other banks.  Tha bank has a good online bill pay service.  They are also have the most branches in the area where I live.  The main reason why I still have the account is because I get the safe deposit box fee waived every year.  I've had the account since the 1980s, but most of my money is in other banks.

1
Comment #13 by Teacher posted on
Teacher
I've had BoA for about 11 years. I got it to link with my son's college checking account.  He's long been off and I'm still with them.  I like the conveniece of location, and they have my favorite bill pay.  I like it because it tells you when the bill will be paid. Not the day they will mail it and make me guess at when it gets there.  I seldom go into a branch, but they are helpful when I do need something.  I would not pay fees if I can find a free one. Right now my pay check eliminates that.  I have several other checking accounts (all free)for various reasons. 

By the way, the banks seem to just change the account name and start charging you when they want to.  So even having one that is supposed to be permantly free means nothing.

3
Comment #14 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I don't know if this is included w/ the total number of customers B of A is purported to have, but the only reason I have them is that AAA uses them for their credit cards.  I don't use the credit card anymore except  for rare situations, usually just to have a few small tramsactions per year on the account.    So far, I have not seen anything indicating that fees are going to be imposed in the future, and hope if they did  that AAA would switch vendors. Does anyone have any information about the AAA / B of A relationship?

Although I have utter contempt for B of A as part of the blood sucking megabank TBTF culture,  I will say their website is good and the SafePass is a great concept which I have used a few times.   Other than that, I would get rid of them in a second except the credit limit I have with them is significant and longstanding, so cancelling the account would adversely affect my credit score for awhile - so as long as they don't try to charge me for inactivity I will continue to use them, I just won't feed them.

4
Comment #15 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
We have had our acccount at BOA for 11 years and haven't had any problems.  Our safe deposit box is at the local branch and it's one of the few in the area that is open on Saturdays until 1.  We have relied on the ATM network when traveling.  They will guarantee a signature - none of the local banks  offer that service.  As others have mentioned, their on-line bill pay is excellent.  We do have to maintain a balance to avoid fees but with interest rates so low, it's worth it.    

1
Comment #16 by Ducking for cover in MO (anonymous) posted on
Ducking for cover in MO
I noticed a few comments here about remote deposit.  I have been thoroughly enjoying it through my credit union for about a year now.  The spousal unit gets paid on paper with no hope of direct deposit so for me/us it's a VERY nice perk.  Oh ya, to keep on topic...I have a wee tiny BOA checking account - that electronic bugger because they changed terms on me (like many others here) which would have included fees - which I'm highly allergic to.  Many years ago they also slurped me up by way of hostile takeover.  I had a few MBNA CD's and IRA's but speedily whisked them away elsewhere once they each matured under the BOA umbrella. 

3
Comment #17 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
WOW!  Thanks for posting this!!!  I get all of my BOA communications online (e-statements and accompanying notifications).  After reading this blog today, I went online to look at my e-statements. There it was (in VERY SMALL PRINT)...  "changes to your account" posted back in March.  I would NOT have seen that, and they sent me nothing on paper (and no email, either).  THANKS for bringing the changes to my attention!!!  I called right away and found out that, yes, I was going to be charged a monthly fee starting in June.  I told the rep that I probably just needed to close my account, and then she told me about the eBanking checking account (or whatever it is called) and she converted mine immediately over the phone.  Now I won't get charged a monthly fee, but I will ALWAYS remember that BOA can be sneaky.

8
Comment #18 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I've been with BoA since 1974, before it was called BoA. A month ago my statement had a charge of $3.00 for including copies of the 2 checks that I wrote that month. I called and received a credit for the fee, and had them not send copies of checks in the future to avoid the fee.

For now, I will stick with them till December. That's when my "auto debit" for insurance will stop being taken from this account. I will then close the account then since I'm now using USAA checking that offers remote deposit.

There are not many BoA branches near me, plus using remote deposit is great.

BoA is slowly going downhill in my opinion.

Also, if Ally starts remote deposit, I'll be on board with that.

3
Comment #19 by rjm (anonymous) posted on
rjm
I only have a credit card with them. And if not for the 5% categories each quarter, I wouldnt have that.

I have never paid a fee of any kind to BOA.

3
Comment #20 by dcurrey posted on
dcurrey
Had a mortgage with BoA after they took over Countywide.  Soon afterwords refinanced with my local CU.

1
Comment #21 by mtbdsavage posted on
mtbdsavage
They have my mortgage...guess that qualifies as an account. Do my other banking with local CU and about to go to First National Bank of McMinnville for a RCA. 

2
Comment #22 by CapitalClimate (anonymous) posted on
CapitalClimate
Can I vote twice? I am a 2-time BofA refugee!

I became a BofA customer when they acquired Maryland National, which was my primary checking account.  They promptly closed my local branch and moved it to a regional mall, so I severed the relationship.  I became a customer again when they affiliated with American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) to provide bonus interest rates to members.  They trashed that deal by becoming extremely uncompetitive, so AAII moved on to Discover, and I again severed the BofA relationship when my last CD with them matured.

2
Comment #23 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Oh come now. 99% of the US? Don't believe everything you read. I don't have & have never had a relationship with Bank of America. Oh wait.......does Merrill Lynch count? If so then nevermind. 

1
Comment #24 by barrytuneup (anonymous) posted on
barrytuneup
i only became their customer when they took over Countrywide.  I will never use them for anything.. Their customer service reeks. I once tried to call them about a question on the mtg, and could not get thru. They are also closed on weekends and after 8:00pm east time. Great service!!.  but i'm stuck with them. Would never use them but for Countrywide. The worst cs ever.

1
Comment #25 by Lisa (anonymous) posted on
Lisa
I have a BoA Visa and opened a My Access checking strictly for the signing bonus. Conveniently, I am due to get one more $20 credit this month and then I can close the account. Contrary to what everyone else says, I think their online Bill Pay is awful, byzantine and badly designed. I have trouble finding basic things I need to do on their website and I have been banking online for 10 years. I also recently switched my card to a Rewards card that was supposed to have an extra 2% back the first 3 months and they never credited me properly. Frankly, if they weren't my highest limit card, I would cancel. I still might if they access me an annual fee this year.

Alliant is vastly better in terms of offerings, service and website design.

2
Comment #26 by Harry (anonymous) posted on
Harry
I have been with B of A for some 40 years. While there was a period, many years back now, that B of A refocused on commerical and investment banking, with resulting lack of satisfaction on my part, and of other consumers. They subsequently "refocused", again, and announced, a return to focus on consumer banking (though they are certainly in the other banking businesses too, in a big way).

I have several accounts, have had few problems, and very much appreciate the Bill Pay and Transfer services, and the general accessability of their on-line banking. Too, particularly in California but often in unexpected "foreign" locations, you can find a, often helpful, brick and mortar branch when you need one. Their CD rates fail to be at all competetive (see highly rated, brick and mortar, One West in California), so go somewhere else for that; and they are a bit "fee happy", but keeping a substantial amount on deposit avoids that problem (at least so far). Glad B of A is around. If their stock drops back to the former "crisis" level, or even much under $10, buy some, I will. 

2
Comment #27 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I left bofa several years ago , I had a MM checking account but there was essentially no interest and a lot of fees and got out and am happy I did.

1
Comment #28 by Matthewgf (anonymous) posted on
Matthewgf
Wells Fargo anyday over bofa. Love their checking packages. Bofa has 0 customer service.

1
Comment #29 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
It's a bit off topic but I have a question.

I used to work on a cruise ship (I'm not American I'm European) and that was several months ago but I opened a BOA debit card with the I<3NY logo thingy... anyway I never used it .. I may have activated it because I tried to use it from the ships ATM but I'm not sure it processed. Never put any money on it or anything.. 2 or 3 months after that I got a -23.74$ on it via regular mail.. Few weeks after that I quit my job and moved back home which BOA has the address from... Then I moved out of my country and went somewhere else.. It has been maybe 6 or 7 months and now I just remembered that I have the card. My question is should I call BOA and ask about my account and have it shut down or cancelled or anything or should I just keep quiet or what .. I'm just too scared to even call and ask .. PLEASE help

1
Comment #30 by Manny (anonymous) posted on
Manny
I signed up for my access account from the web cause the promotion said free checking account and no monthly fees..  I thought they would grandfather that but I guess not!  Anyways, got a question...  If I can not absolutely get direct deposit when I get paid and I switch to the Echecking. How can I get my non BOA paychecks into that account?

1
Comment #31 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I am done with them.

 

I had a structure of seven or so free checking accounts that dealt with various things I wanted to save for. It was beautiful. My salary would be direct deposited, then automatic transfers would split it between all the accounts. Vacation, Savings, Auto, Fixed Expenses, Investing, Spending money etc. I would know exactly how much money I had for all my expenses.

 

And now they are going to charge fees for them? I wish they didn't hold my mortgage. I'm still leaving though. Thinking ING

1
Comment #32 by Hiaybd (anonymous) posted on
Hiaybd
Hey :D

1