Bank of America Review – Full-Service Bank, but Low Interest Rates

There's something at Bank of America that will interest just about every bank customer, but how do their interest rates, features, and fees compare?
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Bank of America is one of the most recognizable national banks. There are more than 4,300 BoA branch locations across the U.S., and if you’re an account holder, you can use any one of more than 16,500 network ATMs for free.

However, Bank of America accounts have the same drawback you’ll find at most brick-and-mortar banks: Interest rates aren’t the greatest. That’s because these banks still have to deal with the overhead costs of operating a network of physical locations.

By contrast, online-only banks such as Ally Bank and CIT Bank don’t have to pay those huge expenses. They pass the savings on to you, in the form of interest rates as much as 20 times higher than the national average.

Still, many folks prefer the convenience of old-fashioned branch banking. They like to speak to a bank representative face-to-face, not to mention easy access to their cash (although, arguably, using an online-only bank’s ATM could be just as convenient for deposits and withdrawals).

Bank of America is a full-service bank that offers everything from credit cards to home loans. But today, in our Bank of America review, we’ll focus on checking and savings accounts and CDs.

Bank of America Review

Product Name: Bank of America
Product Description: Bank of America is one of the most recognizable banks in the world. It's a full-service bank that offers everything from checking and savings accounts to auto and home loans. It's certainly convenient to locate a local branch — there are more than 4,000 of them. There's also a vast network of fee-free ATMs. However, we found the interest rates that BoA accounts pay to be underwhelming; you can accrue much more with an account at another online-only choice.
Products & Services
Interest Rates
Fees & Charges
Website / App
Customer Service

Summary

3.9

When it comes to Products & Services, Bank of America has practically everything you need. In addition to typical bank accounts, you’ll find loan products and even investing accounts. However, Bank of America’s Interest Rates are not competitive with what many online banks offer. Bank of America also has some hefty Fees & Charges. However, some of these can be waived easily enough. In terms of Website/App accessibility, Bank of America’s website and app are fine and have plenty of features. Customer Service isn’t 24/7, but it is available all days of the week.

Bank of America Features

Bank of AmericaFeatures
Banking Account TypesInterest checking, savings, CDs
Other Account TypesCredit cards, auto loans, mortgages, investments, small business banking
Minimum Required Deposit to Open Account$25-$100 on checking and savings; $1,000-10,000 on CDs
Number of Branches4,300
ATM Network Size16,600 surcharge-free ATMs
ATM ReimbursementsYes, with Preferred Rewards membership
Remote DepositYes
App AvailabilityiOS, Android, mobile optimized website
Bill PayYes
Person to Person Money TransfersZelle
Money TransfersZelle, ACH, wire transfers, instant transfers between BoA accounts, international transfers
Customer Service TypesPhone, online
Customer Service HoursMon-Fri: 8 a.m.-11 p.m. ET, Sat-Sun: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. ET
Member FDICFDIC Certificate #3510
Routing Number / ABA NumberVaries by state
Current PromotionsNone
See more Bank Promotions

Additional Features

  • Three Checking Accounts to Choose From. Bank of America offers three checking accounts, including one that pays interest. More on that further down.
  • Keep the Change. This optional feature lets you round up purchases made with your debit card to the nearest dollar and deposit the difference in a savings account.
  • BankAmeriDeals. Earn cash on your purchases when using an eligible BoA debit or credit card.
  • Erica. Erica is the BoA mobile app’s virtual assistant bot. She can help you make a deposit, send money, and even pay your bills on time.
  • Merrill Edge. Bank of America also owns online stock broker Merrill Edge, so you can pair accounts to make a one-stop-shop for your financial needs.

What Is Bank of America?

Bank of America traces its roots back to 1904. Oddly enough, back then it was known as the Bank of Italy, despite being headquartered in San Francisco.

That’s because BoA was founded by Amadeo Pietro Giannini to service the needs of immigrants settling in San Francisco, particularly those from Italy.

During the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Giannini was able to retrieve the funds on deposit at the bank and began lending to customers to rebuild. It proved to be a major advantage because the earthquake had destroyed most other banks.

In time, the bank grew rapidly, expanding throughout California and into neighboring Western states. It also began to acquire stock in banks in New York City and foreign countries.

In 1928, it merged with Bank of America, Los Angeles, and grew to become what was for decades the largest bank in the U.S.

Over the years, Bank of America has consistently been one of the most innovative banks in the country. For example, the company rolled out BankAmericard in 1958, which became Visa in 1977.

The bank experienced various ups and downs but continued to grow through the acquisition of other banks. Finally, in 1997, it was acquired by NationsBank.

At the time, NationsBank was the largest bank in the country, and Bank of America was third. However, the combined bank chose to retain the more popular Bank of America name.

In more recent years, Bank of America acquired former mortgage lending giant Countrywide Financial and the investment brokerage firm Merrill Lynch in 2008.

Today, Bank of America is the second-largest bank in the U.S., behind only JPMorgan Chase.

The bank has total assets over $2.3 trillion and employs more than 200,000 people at 4,300 branches across 38 states in the U.S. Worldwide, it also operates in 35 countries.

How to Get Started with Bank of America

You have several options for opening a new Bank of America account. You can visit any one of the thousands of BoA branches. Or you can do it online or over the phone.

No matter what method you choose, you’ll need to supply the same information:

  • Your Social Security or tax identification number
  • Your current address
  • Your email address
  • External account numbers for funding your account, if you choose

If you open an account in person, you’ll also need to present two types of valid ID.

Note that if you want to open a joint account, you’ll need the same information for the other account holder as well.

Funding Your Bank of America Account. You can fund your new Bank of America account either by linking an external bank account for transfer or by depositing cash or a check.

Bank of America Account Options

Bank of America Checking Accounts

Bank of America’s Advantage Banking offers three checking accounts.

All accounts come with a $0 liability guarantee against fraudulent transactions, the ability to lock and unlock your debit card, custom alerts, and budgeting capabilities with the interactive spending and budgeting tool.

Advantage SafeBalance Banking

This account offers the following features:

  • $4.95 monthly fee, waived for students and Preferred Rewards members (see below)
  • $25 minimum to open
  • Pay with a debit card, Zelle, or mobile or online banking – no paper checks
  • No overdraft fees
  • Does not pay interest

Advantage Plus Banking

This account offers the following features:

  • $12 monthly fee, waived for students, or with a minimum daily balance of $1,500, or at least one qualifying direct deposit of $250, or for Preferred Rewards members (see below)
  • $100 minimum to open
  • Pay with paper checks, debit card, Zelle, or mobile or online banking
  • Add optional overdraft protection
  • Does not pay interest

Advantage Relationship Banking

This account offers the following features:

  • $25 monthly fee, waived with a minimum combined balance of $10,000 in eligible linked accounts, or for Preferred Rewards members (see below)
  • $100 minimum to open
  • Pay with paper checks, debit card, Zelle, or mobile or online banking
  • Add optional overdraft protection
  • Pays interest ranging from 0.01% APY to 0.02% APY

Bank of America Checking Account Fees

  • Monthly fee: Varies by account
  • Non-Bank of America ATM fee: $2.50
  • Stop payment: $30
  • Overdraft protection transfer fee: $12 per transfer
  • Overdraft items: $35
  • Non-sufficient funds: $35
  • Cashier’s checks: $15
  • Incoming wire transfers: $15 (domestic), $16 (foreign)
  • Outgoing wire transfers: $30 (domestic), $35 (foreign in foreign currency), $45 (foreign in US dollars)
  • Deposited item returned: $12 (domestic), $15 (foreign)
  • International transaction fee: 3%
  • Paper statement fee: $5

Preferred Rewards

Each Bank of America checking and savings account is eligible for Preferred Rewards based on account balance. There are four rewards tiers as follows:

Under $20,000

Comes with the following rewards (checking accounts only):

  • A 5% interest rate booster on Rewards Savings Accounts
  • 25% rewards bonus on eligible Bank of America credit cards
  • Up to 12 no-fee ATM transactions per year at non-Bank of America ATMs*
  • 0.05% fee discount on Merrill Guided Investing
  • $200 reduction in the mortgage origination fee
  • 0.25% interest rate discount on auto loans
  • No fees on select banking services

Gold – $20,000 to less than $50,000

Comes with the following rewards:

  • A 5% interest rate booster on Rewards Savings Accounts
  • 25% rewards bonus on eligible Bank of America credit cards
  • Up to 12 no-fee ATM transactions per year at non-Bank of America ATMs*
  • 0.05% fee discount on Merrill Guided Investing
  • $200 reduction in the mortgage origination fee
  • 0.25% interest rate discount on auto loans
  • No fees on select banking services

Platinum – $50,000 to less than $100,000

Comes with the following rewards:

  • A 10% interest rate booster on Rewards Savings Accounts
  • 50% rewards bonus on eligible Bank of America credit cards
  • Up to 12 no-fee ATM transactions per year at non-Bank of America ATMs*
  • 0.10% fee discount on Merrill Guided Investing
  • $400 reduction in the mortgage origination fee
  • 0.35% interest rate discount on auto loans
  • No fees on select banking services

Platinum Honors – $100,000 and higher

Comes with the following rewards:

  • A 20% interest rate booster on Rewards Savings Accounts
  • 75% rewards bonus on eligible Bank of America credit cards
  • Unlimited no-fee ATM transactions per year at non-Bank of America ATMs*
  • 0.15% fee discount on Merrill Guided Investing
  • $600 reduction in the mortgage origination fee
  • 0.50% interest rate discount on auto loans
  • No fees on select banking services

*This refers to the waiver of Bank of America’s fee of $2.50 per use at non-Bank of America ATMs. It is not a reimbursement of fees charged by banks of non-Bank of America ATMs.

Bank of America Savings Accounts

Bank of America offers two savings account options: Rewards Savings and Minor Savings Accounts.

Rewards Savings

This interest-bearing account requires a minimum of $100 to open. But the basic benefit is in the name of the account itself – rewards.

The interest paid on this account is practically nonexistent. But through a combination of rewards and a purchase roundup feature on your debit card, you can increase your account balance just by spending money.

It does this in three ways:

1. BankAmeriDeals. This feature gives you cashback for things you buy every day. For example, you can get up to 15% cash back at stores, restaurants, and other vendors and have the money deposited directly into your Reward Savings account.

2. Keep the Change. If you’re familiar with micro-savings apps like Acorns, you’ll have a basic idea of how this feature works. When you make purchases with your Bank of America debit card, those purchases will be rounded up to the nearest dollar, and the difference will be transferred from your checking account to your Rewards Savings account.

3. Bank of America Preferred Rewards. Just as is the case with Bank of America checking accounts, Rewards Savings members are eligible to participate in Preferred Rewards. To qualify, you need an eligible Bank of America personal checking account and a three-month average combined balance of $20,000 or more in qualifying Bank of America banking accounts and/or Merrill Edge and Merrill Lynch investment accounts.

Rewards Savings fees. The monthly fee is $8, but it can be waived if you maintain a minimum daily balance of $500, or if you’re a Preferred Rewards member. And as a savings account, you’re limited to no more than six withdrawals per month. If you exceed this number, there’ll be a charge of $10 per withdrawal (this applies to all savings accounts per Federal law).

Minor Savings

Bank of America Minor Savings accounts require a minimum of $25 to open, but no minimum balance to maintain the account. There is no monthly fee for minors under 18.

Like Rewards Savings, withdrawals are limited to no more than six per month. A 1$ fee is charged on excess withdrawals, but this fee is waived with a minimum account balance of $300.

Features of the Minor Savings account include:

  • Jointly owned by the minor and the parent/guardian
  • Minor has access to funds in the account before age 18
  • Ability to make automatic transfers to help build savings
  • Account earns interest, comparable to the rates on Rewards Savings above

Bank of America CDs

Bank of America offers CDs with terms ranging from 28 days to 120 months and APRs ranging from 0.03% to 0.50%, with a minimum investment of $1,000.

But BoA pays much higher rates on its Promotional CDs that come in terms of 12 months, 13 months, 25 months, and 37 months, with a minimum investment of $10,000 ($2,000 for IRAs).

Early withdrawal penalties on CDs are as follows:

  • Terms of less than 90 days, the greater of all interest earned on the amount withdrawn or an amount equal to seven days interest on the amount withdrawn.
  • Terms of 90 days up to 12 months, the penalty is an amount equal to 90 days interest on the amount withdrawn
  • Terms of 12 months up to 60 months, the penalty is an amount equal to 180 days interest on the amount withdrawn
  • Terms of 60 months or longer, the penalty is an amount equal to 365 days interest on the amount withdrawn.

Bank of America Customer Service

Bank of America offers convenient customer support hours, with phone lines staffed from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. However, keep in mind several online-only banks offer 24/7 service. The bank’s website also offers live chat.

Of course, during business hours, you can always walk into a Bank of America branch and speak to a representative face-to-face.

Here are some ways to get in touch with Bank of America:

  • Bank of America telephone number: 800-432-1000
  • Bank of America address: Bank of America, P.O. Box 25118, Tampa, FL 33622

Bank of America Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Personal Rewards. Members of this program get increased interest on savings, discounts on loan pricing, and discounted advisory fees through Merrill Edge.
  • Rewards Savings. This feature enables you to increase your balance through rewards and “roundups” from your debit card spending activity.
  • Plentiful Branches. There are roughly 4,300 branches and 16,600 ATMs you can use.
  • Easy to Waive Monthly Fee. It’s easy enough to waive the monthly fees on the BoA checking accounts.

Cons

Interest Rates Aren’t Great. You can find better interest rates at banks that focus more on online operations.
Hefty Overdraft Fee. $35 for an overdraft is pricey enough; Bank of America makes it worse by charging you this amount for up to four daily transactions.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for an old-fashioned brick-and-mortar bank offering lots of services, Bank of America might be a good choice. It can also be convenient to pair a Bank of America bank account with a Merrill Edge trading account – this can become a one-stop-shop for your financial needs.

However, the interest rates it pays on its savings accounts and CDs simply aren’t competitive, especially when stacked up against online-only accounts.


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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is The Military Wallet's founder. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over six years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the Illinois Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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