Bank of America Review

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Everything You Need to Know About Bank of America

Is Bank of America a good bank?

It’s hard to underestimate the exact size of Bank of America: It holds about $1 out of every $10 on deposit in the U.S.  Bank of America has had plenty of time to grow since its origins in 1904 and now boasts over 4,200 branches around the country. That makes it convenient, but that convenience comes at a price because its accounts come with high fees and low interest rates.

What We Like
  • Lots of branch locations

  • Lots of financial products

  • Mildly useful perks: round-up savings feature and cash-back program

What We Don't Like
  • Poor interest rates

  • Poor customer service ratings

  • Most accounts come with high monthly fees

Who Is Bank of America Best For?

If you’re looking for a bank that’s conveniently located wherever you want to be within the U.S., it’s hard to beat Bank of America. Only Chase Bank and Wells Fargo offer more branches nationwide. It may also suit you well if:

  • You want to bank with a large, well-known institution
  • You don’t mind navigating a complex system of rules
  • You’re aware of the many fees and how to dodge them
  • You’re not as concerned with earning a good rate on your savings
  • You want a bank that offers a wide range of financial products

What Does Bank of America Offer?

It’s no surprise that a bank as large as Bank of America also offers many different types of financial products. You can find just about anything you need to manage your money. 

Accounts

  • Checking accounts
  • Savings accounts
  • Certificates of deposit
  • Money market and CD IRAs 
  • Credit cards

Services

  • Online, mobile, and in-person banking
  • Customer service

Advantage SafeBalance Checking Account

At first glance, this sounds like a good checking account. There are no overdraft fees or non-sufficient funds (NSF) fees, and if you meet certain requirements, there’s no monthly fee for this account, either. However, the problem comes when you start digging around beneath the hood. 

In order to qualify for that sweet monthly fee waiver, you’ll need to enroll in the Preferred Rewards program and that requires a three-month combined average balance of at least $20,000 across your Bank of America and/or Merrill investment accounts. If you can’t meet that requirement to enroll in Preferred Rewards, you’ll have to pay a $4.95 monthly maintenance fee for this account.

In addition, this account pays zero interest and doesn’t come with checks. You can still move money in and out of this account via an ATM, direct deposit, in-person deposits and withdrawals, bank-to-bank transfers, and with your debit card. But for a checking account, we’d expect, well, checks.

If you’re a student under 24 years of age and you’re attending high school, college, or a vocational school, you can qualify for a temporary fee waiver for the SafeBalance and Advantage Plus checking accounts, and the Advantage Savings account. You might need to show proof of enrollment to qualify.

Advantage Plus Checking Account

Bank of America’s Advantage Plus checking account is probably what more folks will be interested in, assuming you have the $100 deposit required to open one. It does come with the option to purchase paper checks and it is a bit easier to meet the monthly requirements to waive the $12 monthly fee. Just do one of the following three things during each statement cycle:

  1. Enroll in the Preferred Rewards program (with its $20,000 barrier to entry)
  2. Keep an average daily balance of at least $1,500 in this account
  3. Have an eligible direct deposit of at least $250

Sadly, this account also doesn’t pay any interest, and it adds a new potential snag: You can be charged overdraft and NSF fees with this account if you overdraw it. This fee could be a substantial cost, depending on your situation—it’s $35 for each overdraft that’s over $1. You can opt into overdraft protection from your Bank of America savings account, but you’ll also pay a fee (albeit smaller) of $12 for each transfer to cover the overdraft.

Advantage Relationship Checking Account

If you tend to keep large balances in your accounts, this might be the best choice for you at this bank. If you keep at least $10,000 tucked away into your linked Bank of America accounts each statement cycle, the massive monthly fee of $25 will be waived. If you sign up for the Preferred Rewards program, you can also have the fee waived.

In return, you’ll actually earn a bit of interest with this account. Don’t get too excited, though—it’s about 0.01%, which is as low of an APY as a bank can pay while saying it pays anything at all. You can also earn a few valuable perks, like free checks, free wire transfers, free overdraft protection transfers, and you can have the monthly fee waived on certain other bank accounts as well if you link them to this one.

Advantage Savings Account

Bank of America only offers one savings account for adults, and there’s not a ton to like about it. While it does offer about 0.03% APY, the rate varies by location and it’s so low that it’s basically negligible.

Even worse, it comes with an $8 monthly fee. That’s not as bad as some of Bank of America’s checking accounts, but you’d need to keep several hundred thousand dollars in this savings account in order to earn enough interest to offset the monthly fee. You can get it waived through a few methods, however, most notably if you keep an average daily balance of at least $500 in the account.

Keep in mind this means that you won’t be able to drain the account, such as if you’re saving for something in particular and you reach your goal. You’ll need to save however much you need, while consistently maintaining $500 in the account every month to avoid the fee.  

Like many other banks, Bank of America limits you to just six electronic withdrawals per month from your savings account. You'll be charged a $10 “Withdrawal Limit Fee” for each time you go over this limit. 

Minor Savings Account

You can jointly open a Minor Savings Account for an under-18 child with a minimum deposit of $25, and there are no monthly fees. Another perk is that your child will pay a small fee of just $1 if they do go over six withdrawals in a statement cycle, but it can be waived if you maintain a minimum balance of $300 in the account at all times. 

The interest rate offered on this account is generally the same as the adult Advantage Savings version, which is to say that it doesn’t earn much. Once your child turns 18, this account will switch over to the full Advantage Savings account, complete with all of the fees that it charges. 

Custodial UTMA Savings Account

A UTMA account is basically the same thing as a savings account for children, but instead of opening it jointly with your child, you remain in complete control of the account until your child turns 18. Then it becomes their account, and they can do whatever they want with the money you’ve saved for them.

Bank of America’s UTMA account requires a higher deposit to open than its minor savings account—$100 vs. $25—and also comes with a monthly fee of $8 if you don’t keep at least $500 in the account at all times.

Money Market IRA

Many banks and credit unions offer a money market account, which is a bit of a hybrid between a checking account and a savings account. At Bank of America, the only money market account offered is a Money Market IRA, which lets you save for retirement within an FDIC-insured account starting with as little as $100. You can open this account within either a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA.

Saving in a Money Market IRA (as opposed to an IRA CD) allows you to withdraw your money whenever you want. But for savers under age 59 1/2, that may not be a good idea because the IRS will heavily penalize you for early IRA withdrawals. If you are retirement age, however, this account may make more sense for you. 

Certificates of Deposit

Regular, non-IRA CDs come in two flavors at Bank of America: Featured CDs and Standard Term CDs. If you have a limited amount of money, a Standard Term CD allows you to get started with as little as $1,000. There’s a broad range of term lengths, too, from 28 days to 10 years in length. Unfortunately, these CDs also don’t pay very much interest as of May 27, 2020.

Standard CDs
Term APY
1-11 Months 0.03%
18-23 Months 0.07%
24-120 Months 0.10%

If you’ve got a bit more cash—$10,000, to be specific—you can take advantage of Bank of America’s Featured CDs. They offer better rates as of May 27, 2020, but they’re still a far cry from the best CD rates available from other banks and credit unions. They also don’t come in as many term lengths (just seven, 10, 13, 25, and 37 months). Rates are current as of May 27, 2020, and may vary by location.

Featured CDs
Term APY
7-Month 0.17%
10-Month 0.17%
13-Month 0.17%
25-Month 0.17%
37-Month 0.17%

It’s best to leave your money in a CD and not withdraw it early unless you absolutely need it. Otherwise, you’ll pay an early withdrawal penalty. At Bank of America, the early withdrawal penalty ranges from seven days’ worth of interest all the way up to 365 days’ worth of interest, depending on the CD term. 

IRA Certificate of Deposits

Bank of America offers three types of IRA CDs. Its Standard Term IRA CDs and Featured IRA CDs are essentially the same thing as its normal CDs, just within the package of an IRA. One notable difference is that the Featured IRA CD requires a slightly higher minimum deposit than the Standard Term IRA CD—$2,000 vs. $1,000. 

However, you also have one more choice if you opt for an IRA CD. You can choose a Variable Rate IRA CD with an interest rate that changes over the CD’s term, which ranges from 18 to 23 months. It requires a smaller deposit ($100) to get started and is also available as a traditional or Roth IRA.

Credit Cards

Bank of America is one of the larger credit card issuers, offering 23 different options for credit cards. It also partners with many third-party companies to offer branded credit cards with specific perks. 

Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Cash-Back Credit Cards

  • Bank of America Cash Rewards
  • Susan G. Komen Cash Rewards Visa Credit Card from Bank of America
  • MLB Credit Cards
  • World Wildlife Fund Credit Card
  • U.S. Pride Credit Card

Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Secured Credit Cards

Student Credit Cards

Other Financial Products From Bank of America

As a full-service bank, Bank of America also offers a lot of other options aside from credit cards and deposit accounts. These include:

  • Mortgages
  • Refinance mortgages
  • Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs)
  • Auto loans
  • Auto loan refinance
  • Investments through Merrill Edge and Merrill Lynch
  • Self-directed portfolios
  • Managed portfolios
  • Financial advisors
  • Business banking services
  • Private banking

Bank of America Customer Service

When it comes to banking satisfaction, Bank of America ranks below many of the other big banks. According to the 2019 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study from J.D. Power, there were few banks that ranked lower than Bank of America across the various regions and states in terms of customer service. It offers most of the things that you’d expect, such as online banking, a mobile app, and FDIC insurance. However, getting ahold of someone can sometimes be tricky since the bank doesn’t offer 24/7 call-in support, and chat support is spotty at best. 

While it hasn’t been involved in some of the big scandals that other banks have faced, Bank of America doesn’t exactly have a spotless record. It’s been involved in numerous controversies and lawsuits over the years, including being slapped with a $727 million fine by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2014 for illegal credit card practices. 

How to Bank With Bank of America

You can easily apply for a bank account with Bank of America online or by visiting a local branch. If you have had problems qualifying for checking accounts in the past, have a “limited credit history,” or if you’re depositing more than $100,000 into an account, you’ll probably want to head to a branch rather than try to sign up online. You’ll also need to provide personal information, just like you would when opening an account at any other bank. 

The Bottom Line

Benefits

The biggest thing you’ll get out of banking with Bank of America is convenience. There are branches in 37 states, so there might even be one located just down the street from you right now. You can rest assured that there will probably be one close by if you travel somewhere else within the U.S., too. 

Drawbacks

Bank of America is a quintessential mega bank. There are a lot of fees (and high ones) to watch out for, and the interest rates you can earn are next to nothing. While Bank of America makes it seem like it’s doing you a favor by offering you ways to dodge those fees, don’t be fooled. You can easily find a much better bank that charges no fees and offers high interest rates as a matter of principle, especially if you’re willing to do your banking online. 

Article Sources

  1. FDIC. "Bank of America, National Association (FDIC # 3510)." Accessed March 16, 2020.

  2. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. "Deposits, All Commercial Banks." Accessed March 16, 2020.

  3. Bank of America. "Preferred Rewards Frequently Asked Questions." Accessed March 16, 2020.

  4. Bank of America. "Personal Schedule of Fees," Pages 4, 12-13. Accessed March 16, 2020.

  5. Bank of America. "Personal Schedule of Fees," Page 5. Accessed March 16, 2020.

  6. Bank of America. "Bank of America Advantage Savings." Accessed March 16, 2020.

  7. Bank of America. "Personal Schedule of Fees," Page 6. Accessed March 16, 2020.

  8. Bank of America. "Child Savings Accounts." Accessed March 16, 2020.

  9. Bank of America. "Savings IRAs." Accessed March 16, 2020.

  10. Bank of America. "Certificate of Deposit (CD) Accounts." Accessed March 16, 2020.

  11. Bank of America. "Ten Years After Great Recession, Innovation Overcomes Reputation as Bank Switching Hits Record Low, J.D. Power Finds." Accessed March 16, 2020.