Bank of America started as the Bank of Italy in San Francisco back in 1904. The local bank became a statewide bank, Nation’s Bank, before changing its name to Bank of America. It eventually became the largest bank in the world. Today, Bank of America appeals to customers that want access to online and physical branch locations. It offers advanced digital website features for customers that want to bank online with their smartphones. Bank of America is also a good fit for customers that want to visit a branch to make deposits or learn about account options.
Bank of America at a glance
- Large ATM and branch network
- AI financial tracking
- Excessive fees
- Low APY for CDs and savings
- High overdraft fees
What’s interesting about Bank of America
Bank of America has advanced, award-winning digital technology features. Customers can ask AI virtual assistant Erica for help with managing money, budgeting and expense tracking. With thousands of locations and ATMs, customers can bank online and in-person. Customer service agents are available until 9 p.m. EST on weekdays and 8 p.m. on weekends.
A popular “Keep the Change” program lets customers round up their purchases through a convenient automated savings program and the extra “change” drops into a savings account. Customers can also scan checks with the camera on their phones to make deposits into their accounts. Bank of America insures all deposits to CDs, checking, savings, and money market accounts up to $250,000.
Things to consider
A drawback of Bank of America accounts is that monthly transaction fees and other types of fees can add up very quickly. A helpful overdraft protection program, SafeBalance, can prevent overdraft fees. Without it, a customer might incur fees as high as $140 per day. An additional concern is with interest rates. Bank of America’s highest interest rate is for its Reward Savings account. This rate is lower than the national average. Interest rates are also slightly lower for savings accounts and CDs.
Checking and savings accounts
Bank of America offers several types of accounts to help customers save and grow their money. Its line of Advantage checking accounts all require a minimum opening deposit and have monthly maintenance fees. Like many other banks, these fees can be waived with a minimum balance or if you’re a student. The Bank of America Advantage Relationship Checking Account requires customers to have a $10,000 minimum balance across all linked accounts to waive the monthly fee. The average banker may not have this much to put in a bank or even be able to afford a monthly maintenance fee, so Bank of America may not be for customers who live paycheck-to-paycheck or experience financial struggles for the foreseeable future.
Customers can also seamlessly pay bills online; however, hefty fees can make this undesirable. Customers that have a hard time maintaining the minimum balance may find that they can quickly become overdrawn.
Bank of America reward savings accounts offer lower-than-average interest rates compared with online banks. APYs range on average from about 0.03% and go up to about 0.06% for higher balances, which is actually above average for traditional banks. There is an $8 monthly maintenance fee which can be waived if customers maintain a $500 balance.
Money market accounts
Bank of America offers a Rewards Savings money market account. It includes paper checks for a fee. However, the fee can be waived if customers sign up for the Preferred Rewards plan. To earn the top-tiered annual percentage rate, customers will need to deposit $2,500 in their accounts. If they don’t keep the account balance minimum of $500, they will be charged a fee of $8 in maintenance each month.
The downside to Bank of America’s money market account is that the APY even with the top-tier is still below the nation’s average. Additionally, aside from the low APY, another concern is the fees that are charged. While these are avoidable fees if account balances are maintained, many other banks don’t charge monthly fees at all, especially on money market accounts.
Bank of America offers two types of certificates of deposit; however, both have an APY that’s a bit lower compared to other banks. For example, the standard term CD will hit a maximum of 1.00% APY on the longest term available through Bank of America, and that’s even with a minimum $1,000 deposit. Customers can certainly find better APYs at other banks or with other Bank of America products. For a shorter-term certificate of deposit, consider opening a Featured CD account. Bank of America’s APY for this account is 0.07% — hardly better than a traditional savings account — and customers will have to deposit $10,000 into the account. The concern is the low APY. Other banks have CD APYs that range from about 2% on the low end and go up to 5% for higher balances. Plus, to access the money before maturity, you will pay a penalty for that early withdrawal.
Bank of America offers different types of credit cards that can help customers with cash back rewards and travel. Customers can conveniently manage their card activity online or through the mobile app. An example of a cash rewards credit card that Bank of America offers is the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card. It includes 25,000 bonus points, which are a $250 value. With this card, customers also earn 1.5 points for every $1 they spend on eligible purchases. The introductory APR is 0%; however, it can reach 16.74% to 24.74% after one year. This is a good rewards card, but customers might find that credit cards through other banks offer higher reward percentages and more average or lower APR rates.
For customers with bad or poor credit, they might want to explore Bank of America’s secured credit card options. One type of card is the BankAmericard Secured Card. With this card, customers can pay for online and in-store purchases when they load the $300 minimum security deposit on the card. The maximum amount allowed is $4,900. Credit limits are determined by how much a person loads onto their card, their ability to pay the credit line, and their income — this is a good card to reestablish good personal financial habits and learn how to budget.
Unfortunately, Bank of America does not offer personal loan options to its customers. For an unsecured personal loan, SoFi or Best Egg are two solid online lenders that offer competitive rates, flexible payment schedules and a simple application process.
However, Bank of America does offer business loans and lines of credit to business owners.
Bank of America offers 30-year fixed, 15-year fixed and 5/1 ARM variable mortgages to its home-buying customers. This lender’s rates are fairly competitive, and homebuyers can borrow between $60,000 and $2.5 million for a home loan. Any amount above that would need to be financed by a jumbo mortgage. Customers enrolled in Preferred Rewards with Bank of America could see a $600 reduction in origination fees.
For those looking to refinance their mortgage for lower rates and a more manageable monthly payment, Bank of America offers mortgage refinancing. With rates hover between 3% and 4%, but ultimately, the interest rate will depend on the value of the home and how much is left on the original mortgage.
Home equity loans and HELOCs
With no origination fees, no closing costs and no annual fees, homeowners can access the equity in their homes through Bank of America’s home equity loans and lines of credit. This home equity lender also offers low introductory rates for home equity loans alongside special rates discounts like 0.25% for auto-pay, 0.375% for Preferred Rewards clients and 0.10% for every $10,000 in the initial withdraw up to 1.50%. For example, with a $300,000 home that has $200,000 left on the mortgage, homeowners can access up to $100,000 in equity.
Lock in rates as low as 2.99% on a new car or 3.29% for a used car with Bank of America auto loans. Coupled with auto loan refinancing and lease buyout, Bank of America has carved an attractive one-stop-shop for car financing and refinancing for its clients. Furthermore, Preferred Rewards members can receive extra interest rate discounts of up to 0.50%.
The final word
Bank of America is a well-known bank, but avoidable high fees and low savings account and CD rates are a bit concerning. With advanced technical features, customers that enjoy online banking and AI assistance from Erica can find help with budgets and money management. Incentives include minimum deposit amounts for all accounts. Customer service is also superb — live agents, live chat and Twitter are all available for customers that have questions
Bank of America is one of the largest banks in the world still offering brick-and-mortar locations so that may be why they charge so many fees. However, customers that can’t meet minimum account balances and want higher savings and CD rates might want to look elsewhere.