Bank of America Review – Is Bigger Better?
Your personal finances can be a lot easier to manage if you do all of your banking at one bank. You don’t have to, of course. You may be OK juggling multiple accounts for a home loan, investments, savings, checking, and credit cards, among other financial needs.
Or you can do what 66 million U.S. consumers do and have some, if not all, of your financial activities at Bank of America. It’s the second-largest bank in the country, with $2.16 trillion in total assets, behind only JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Bank of America offers many services, which we’ll touch on, but our main focus is showing how its checking and savings accounts work so you can pick the best account that fits your daily needs.
- What is Bank of America?
- Bank of America fees
- The bottom line
What is Bank of America?
As we’ve said, it’s a large bank. Not only does it have millions of customers and assets, but it has 4,300 branches and 16,000 ATMs. It services approximately 10.73% of all American bank deposits. BofA’s deposits are insured by the FDIC.
Now called BofA for short, Bank of America was started in 1904 as Bank of Italy by Amadeo Pietro Giannini to help Italian immigrants who faced service discrimination by various banks. Giannini acquired Banca d’America e d’Italia (Bank of America and Italy) in 1922.
The bank now offers a range of financial services, including checking, savings, credit cards, home loans, auto loans, and investing services.
Bank of America checking and savings accounts
Bank of America has three types of checking accounts and three types of savings accounts. It has accounts for students, everyday customers with basic banking needs, and for those with high balances.
It also has CDs that pay a set interest rate for a deposit kept at the bank for a certain amount of time, and offers individual retirement accounts, or IRAs, to help people save for retirement.
Customers with high balances get extra perks, such as waived monthly maintenance fees, free use of non-BofA ATMs, a higher savings account rate, and other things in what the bank calls Preferred Rewards. We’ll explain the three reward tiers in more detail later, but they start for account balances of $20,000.
Bank of America checking accounts
A Bank of America checking account isn’t just limited to one type of account. BofA has three of what it calls Advantage Banking checking accounts. Each has a monthly service fee that can be waived by meeting minimum balance requirements or by having direct deposits of at least $250 each month.
Here are how the accounts work:
- Advantage SafeBalance: For students in high school, college, or vocational school. A monthly $4.95 maintenance fee is waived if under age 24 and enrolled in school. The account doesn’t have overdraft fees.
- Advantage Plus: Everyday banking for non-students. A monthly $12 account fee is waived for having a $250 direct deposit each month, or by keeping a $1,500 minimum daily balance.
- Advantage Relationship: Meant for customers with high balances, this checking account earns interest and doesn’t charge fees for some services. A monthly $25 fee is waived for having $10,000 in linked accounts or being enrolled in Preferred Rewards.
Bank of America savings accounts
BofA has two types of savings accounts. One is for everyday use, and the other two are for children:
- Advantage Savings: This savings account pays 0.01% APY, though Bank of America Preferred Rewards members can earn 0.02, 0.03, and 0.05% more by having $20,000, $50,000, or $100,000, respectively, in their combined accounts at BofA. The monthly maintenance fee is $8 unless the minimum daily balance is $500 or it’s linked to an Advantage Relationship account. The minimum deposit to open an account is $100.
- Minor Savings Account: No monthly maintenance fee if the child is under age 18. This joint account is owned by the minor and parent or guardian. The child can access the funds before age 18, the account pays interest, requires $25 to open, and has no minimum daily balance requirement.
- Custodial Savings Account: Has an $8 monthly fee and is money is given to the child when they reach maturity. The fee is waived with a minimum daily balance of $500. The account pays interest and requires a minimum opening deposit of $100.
Bank of America fees
Every Bank of America savings account or checking account charges a monthly maintenance fee, except for the Minor Savings Account if the child is under 18.
The monthly fees are waived for meeting at least one other requirement, depending on which account you have:
- Direct deposit of $250 per month.
- $1,500 minimum daily balance in checking account.
- Under age 24 and in school.
- $500 minimum daily balance in savings account, or linked to a high balance checking account.
- High balance account, called Advantage Relationship, requires $10,000 in linked accounts.
Otherwise, banking account maintenance fees range from $4.95 to $25 per month. Most people should be able to have the fees waived simply by having $250 per month in direct deposits to their Bank of America Advantage Plus banking account for checking, or keep at least $500 in a savings account.
Like many other banks, BofA charges fees for extra services. The checking account for high balances, the Bank of America Advantage Relationship banking program, however, waives most of those extra fees.
But if you’re not in the high balance account, the fees include for such things as:
- $12 for overdraft protection transfer
- $5 for statement copies
- $5 for ATM or debit card replacement
- $30 for stop payment request
- $15 for incoming domestic wire transfer
Bank of America features
The more money you have in Bank of America accounts, including in its Merrill investment accounts, the more rewards you qualify for in its Preferred Rewards program. It has three tiers, each with better benefits as balances increase.
Program benefits are kept for at least a full year, so you don’t have to worry if your balances dip temporarily. Balances are reviewed monthly to see if you qualify for a higher tier. Here are the three tiers and some of the rewards they allow:
|Rewards level||Minimum balances||Savings interest rate booster||Free use of non-BofA ATMs||Select banking services|
|Platinum Honors||$100,000||20%||Unlimited||No fees|
Most financial institutions have some sort of mobile banking app. Bank of America has online banking and a mobile banking app that allows you to deposit checks, open an online account, access investment accounts, lock your debit card, and do other banking chores without having to visit a bank office.
The mobile banking app has a robo assistant named Erica who can help you find answers to your banking questions.
Your debit card can be put in your digital wallet to pay merchants, and you can pay friends securely with Zelle from your phone. Custom alerts and savings goals can be set in the app, and cash back deals and other rewards are customized for you in the app.
Some businesses try to sell existing customers something by sending them fliers in the mail and other forms of advertising. Bank of America does this too, but also in a way through the mobile app that could put money in their customers’ pockets.
Some of the benefits that can be seen are for being a Preferred Rewards member, meaning you have at least $20,000 in account balances. The app will show you how much money you’ve saved in fees, how much the interest on your savings account is boosted, and other benefits.
It also shows deals through Bank of America, such as 10% off Big O Tires when you use your BofA credit or debit card. You can choose the deals you want. No promo codes or coupons are needed. Once you make the purchase, the cash back is deposited into your account.
When researching Bank of America checking and savings accounts, you may see a fee listed for monthly maintenance. The bank’s basic savings account charges $8 per month and the basic checking account charges $12.
Don’t let those account fees dissuade you from researching the account more. The can be waived if you meet the simple requirements of having a $500 balance in the savings account and having a $250 direct deposit in the checking account. A $1,500 minimum daily balance in the checking account will also allow the fee to be waived, though that may be harder to reach than a monthly direct deposit of $250.
Keep the Change
Bank of America has a program called Keep the Change, where debit card transactions are rounded up to the nearest dollar and the difference is transferred to your savings account. It won’t make you rich, but it makes it easier to balance your checkbook and gives savings account holders a reminder to save with automatic transfers anyway.
Who is Bank of America best for?
Those with direct deposits
Most people should be able to avoid paying the fee that BofA charges for a basic checking account by having direct deposit of $250 each month. If you get paid every two weeks, that’s only $125 per paycheck that goes through direct deposit to the bank.
Those who want physical bank branches
Bank of America has 4,300 branches across the U.S., so you should be able to find an office near you if you need one and want to talk to a bank professional in person. Customer service can also be reached online and by phone.
Those with high balances
Meeting both of those criteria will get you free access to many services that other customers have to pay for. Stop payment requests, wire transfers, and debit card replacement are some of the services that Preferred Rewards members who have at least $20,000 in their BofA accounts get for free.
High school and college students can get a free checking account at Bank of America, called Advantage SafeBalance, until they turn 25. The account doesn’t have overdraft fees and is a good way for students to have a checking account when they’re starting their financial journey. BofA has 16,000 ATMs in the U.S. that are free for its customers to use, so students should be able to find one near their campus.
Who shouldn’t use Bank of America?
Those with non-traditional income
Freelancers, some gig workers, restaurant staff, contractors, and others with fluctuating income may not be able to meet BofA’s requirements to waive monthly account fees. The bank’s basic checking account requires monthly direct deposits of $250, and its savings account requires a $500 minimum daily balance to have the fee waived.
If you’re looking for a high-yield savings account, you’re unlikely to find it at Bank of America. Its savings accounts do the basic job of saving for a rainy day, but you can find much higher interest rates paid on savings at online-only banks and at some brick-and-mortar banks.
Pros and cons
If you’re still unsure why Bank of America may be best for your financial needs, consider these pros and cons.
Accounts for any age
From children to retirees, Bank of America has savings and checking accounts for all ages. It offers a savings account where children can get access to their money now, or a custodial account where money can be saved for them and given to them when they turn 18.
Rewards for high balances
The more money you have in your accounts, the more you’ll save on fees and can get bonuses on the interest you earn in a savings account and elsewhere. Keep at least $100,000 in Bank of America accounts and you can use ATMs for free that aren’t run by the bank.
Most people should be able to have the monthly maintenance fees waived by having direct deposit or meeting minimum balance requirements.
Lots of ATMs and branches
Bank of America has 16,000 ATMs that are free to use, and 4,300 branches across the U.S.
Low savings rate
The basic rate on a savings account is 0.01% APY. It can go up to 0.05% APY if you have a high balance, but a savings account may not be the best place to park $100,000.
While overdraft fees can be avoided, Bank of America charges a hefty $35 per overdraft, up to four times daily. That can be painful at up to $140 per day. It also charges $12 for an overdraft protection transfer.
Fees for non-Bank of America ATMs
The bank also charges fees for using non-Bank of America ATMs. The fee is $2.50 in the U.S. and $5 internationally. With 16,000 ATMs that it owns, it shouldn’t be hard finding a BofA ATM in the U.S. If you’re going abroad, you may want to use a credit card without foreign transaction fees instead.
Bank of America vs. competitors
|Bank||Monthly fee||Savings APY||Overdraft fee||Branches|
|Bank of America||$4.50-$25||0.01%||$35||4,300|
Bank of America vs. Citibank
Citibank is the fourth largest bank in the U.S.. It has fewer branches than Bank of America, 700 at Citi vs. 4,300 at BofA. Most of Citibank’s branches are in California, while BofA has them in every state.
For its basic checking accounts, Citibank has similar ways to waive monthly account maintenance fees as BofA does. At least one qualifying direct deposit is required each month, and/or a bill payment per statement period, or a $1,500 combined average monthly balance in linked accounts.
Citi pays higher starting interest rates on savings accounts, though it probably won’t add up to much money for most customers.
Bank of America vs. Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo & Co. is the third-largest bank in the world, with more than 5,320 locations across the country.
Wells Fargo charges $10 for customers 25 and older to use its basic checking account, called Everyday Checking, each month. The fee is waived for having a $500 direct deposit monthly or an average balance of $500. That’s double the direct deposit amount BofA requires in a similar checking account, but well below the $1,500 minimum daily balance, BofA requires for waiving its $12 monthly account fee.
If you earn a low income, the $250 direct deposit threshold at BofA may be easier to reach each month, though most people should be able to hit either level.
Should I open a savings account at Bank of America?
To store some extra money or just as a place to move money from the bank’s Keep the Change program, where debit card transactions are rounded up and the change is transferred to your savings account, Bank of America’s savings account is worth opening.
But it has a few flaws, starting with the abysmal interest rates it pays on balances. The rates are tiered, though the standard APY is currently 0.01% for balances up to $20,000.
Reach any of the three tiers in its Preferred Rewards program, and the interest rates go up a little. Here are the minimum balances and what those APYs are:
The BofA savings account also has a monthly fee of $8, which isn’t much but adds up in a year to $96. The fee can be waived in a few ways, starting by maintaining a minimum daily balance of $500. That may be a lot of money to tie up in a low-interest savings account for some people.
Is a large bank for me?
That’s a question that only you can decide, but we can offer some factors to consider when choosing a bank for your daily financial needs.
If you want a bank with lots of offices and ATMs, Bank of America can be a good fit. It has 4,300 branches and 16,000 ATMs. And like most banks, it has customer support online and over the phone.
Traditional, large banks aren’t known for paying high-interest rates to checking and savings account holders. BofA’s interest rates are low on its savings accounts, and nonexistent on its basic checking accounts. It pays interest on a high-balance checking account, though it’s only 0.01% APY on balances up to $50,000, and 0.02% APY on higher balances.
Chances are you can find higher interest rates at online-only banks. That means being comfortable with online communication, though most should also have a phone number to call for customer service. And we know how much fun waiting on hold can be.
The bottom line
Searching for an ATM late at night when you need cash isn’t something you want to do often. Bank of America makes it easy, with more than 16,000 ATMs across the country. You should be able to find an ATM near you, no matter where you live in the U.S. BofA also has a lot of bank offices, giving you the option to do your banking in person if you want to.
Those can be big reasons to choose a bank for your daily financial needs, but they shouldn’t be the only ones. Bank of America offers checking and savings accounts that can be free of monthly maintenance charges by meeting a few simple requirements, such as direct deposit or keeping a minimum balance.
But its basic checking and savings accounts pay no or little interest. If earning money on your money is a priority, then you may want to look elsewhere for your banking needs. But if you want bank accounts that can be free to use and offer some money-saving perks, then Bank of America may be the daily bank you need.