Bank of America - Is It the Right Bank for You?

An Overview of One of America's Largest Banks

Mixed race businesswoman using ATM in city
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Choosing a Bank

If you are looking to establish a banking relationship and convenience, one-stop-shopping, online accessibility and a broad range of products and services are what you're looking for, large national banks should be considered, and Bank of America, as the second largest bank in America, is one of them.

Bank of America serves 47 million consumer and small business relationships with approximately 4,700 retail financial centers, 16,000 ATMs, and award-winning online banking with approximately 32 million users and 19 million mobile users.

And, BofA offers industry-leading support to 3 million small business owners through a suite of innovative, easy-to-use online products and services.

The History of Bank of America

Bank of America began in 1904 when Italian-American Amadeo Giannini founded the "Bank of Italy" in San Francisco. Set in a former saloon, Giannini initially began the bank as a way to provide loans to immigrants, middle-class Americans, and farmers denied services by major financial institutions of the time period. As deposits grew and word of mouth carried, the name was changed to "Bank of America," which Giannini felt better expressed the mission of his bank.

Expansion, acquisitions, and branch openings quickly followed. Giannini's tiny bank grew to a powerhouse which backed everything from Disney's production of to the early start-up of Hewlett-Packard.

The 21st century saw Bank of America rise and fall in public opinion through the rapid acquisition of Merrill Lynch, NationsBank, and other financial institutions.

Seemingly swallowing the competition whole, the rapid growth rate took its toll. Accusations of insider trading and fraud surfaced in 2008, and public opinion of the banking sector dropped steadily during the recession of 2009. Today, Bank of America appears to have turned its attention from its network of retail locations to building and refining first-class online and mobile products.

 

Consumer Criticism

Despite the setbacks, Bank of America has held its own in the financial industry. A huge variety of financial services, user-friendly website, online and mobile access, and locations from Main Street to Dubai have provided Bank of America with a loyal customer base.  

With the perks of a big bank, though, come drawbacks. Tales of never-ending bureaucracy, slow turnaround times for mortgages, impersonal customer service, and widely charged fees have a long history in criticisms of Bank of America. The image of Bank of America as a giant unconcerned with customer service has caused a small but vocal minority to jump ship for local banks.

Keep the Change 

New products, new services, and blankets of marketing targeted towards customers are constantly being rolled out. One example is the marketing campaign behind the "keep the change" program - customers enroll to have the "change" from each debit card transaction deposited into their savings account, like a virtual piggy bank. 

Easy Access

To that end, Bank of America has made improvements to its website, online access and mobile tools. Choices range from personal account management, mortgages, and investments to software that allows customers to monitor and graph their spending from the desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile device.

Send wires online to accounts in the US and abroad. Just enter the routing information, go through a few security checks, and sending money is as simple as a few clicks of a button.

Bank of America has also done a great job at creating a "one stop shop" for clients. A checking account, savings account, investment portfolio, and mortgage held by the same customer can all be accessed with the same Bank of America login ID.

Is Bank of America Worth It

There are trade-offs and compromises when choosing Bank of America as your primary financial institution. There are too many products to even begin to list here, but the website does a thorough job at explaining most of them. If you're in the market for a new bank, its well worth it to research Bank of America, but don't get overwhelmed by all the options.

Stick to the basics - the services you need, ease of use, reliability, fee structure, and the ability to get answers when you need them.

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