Bank of America is the third largest bank in the country, with 4,700 branch offices in 35 states and $1.2 billion in domestic deposits as of September 2016. Its wide distribution makes it a decent choice for your checking account, but its low deposit interest rates —ranging from 0.01% to 0.06% —make it less optimal to keep your savings with Bank of America.
Review: Should You Open an Account at Bank of America?
Bank of America is an acceptable bank if you want to consolidate your finances in one convenient place, but not if you're trying to find the highest interest rate on your money. The bank delivers almost every retail bank product on the market, from checking accounts to savings, loans and credit cards. Bank of America doesn't do any one thing particularly better than its competitors, but you're guaranteed to find at least some version of every product at Bank of America.
Although it's difficult to compare the largest banks because they offer many of the same services and products, Bank of America stands out in a few areas. Its standard daily limit of $1,000 on ATM cash withdrawals and $5,000 on debit purchases is substantially higher than the usual limits at either Chase or Wells Fargo. Even among smaller regional banks, the only place we found ATM and debit limits higher than at Bank of America was PNC Bank, which allows up to $1,500 from ATMs and $7,500 in debit transactions each day.
Additionally, Bank of America's higher limits may apply to students as well. Instead of providing college-age students with a separate checking option, Bank of America allows them to enroll in its standard Core Checking program, waiving the $12 monthly fee for people age 23 or younger. This means that rather than having to deal with the more restrictive withdrawal and spending limits on a typical student account, college customers at Bank of America will likely have access to the standard higher limits of Core Checking.
One area in which you may be disappointed with Bank of America is its high number of incidental fees, such as a $5 charge for any printed statements you request from the bank. While some brick-and-mortar banks have similar policies, Bank of America stands at the high end of the distribution, especially in comparison to low-service online accounts. While these fees won't affect most people most of the time, incidental charges may fall heavily on people who rely on uncommon services like cashier's checks.
Bank of America Checking Account Features
Bank of America has three different types of checking accounts, although the majority of people will only need to consider their main Core Checking Account.
|Bank of America Core Checking|
|Bank of America Interest Checking|
|Bank of America SafeBalance® Banking|
The Bank of America Core Checking Account, which requires $25 to open and costs $17 in total monthly fees, is a thoroughly typical checking option from a national bank. Its benefits include reliable access to thousands of branches and ATMs, along with a robust mobile and online platform for doing your banking remotely. As with other large banks, you can use Bank of America's app to make mobile check deposits, transfer money between accounts or to other people, pay bills and keep track of your transactions. These features are useful, but they don't distinguish Bank of America in any significant way from what you'll find at competitors like Chase or Wells Fargo. If these accounts aren't close to what you have in mind, online checking may be a better place to look.
Although Bank of America Interest Checking does earn interest, the $25 maintenance fee on that account tends to negate that benefit. The Bank of America SafeBalance® Banking Account works differently from accounts at other banks: it's specifically designed to protect your balance from overdrafts and fraud. You can't avoid the $4.95 monthly fee, but the account won't allow any overdrafts, simply declining excess transactions instead. It also comes with a photo ID printed on your debit card, adding a bit more security to your card.
One additional feature that may interest museum and art enthusiasts: Bank of America sponsors a program called Museums on Us®, through which Bank of America debit and credit card holders can obtain free weekend access to over 150 galleries and museums. Each cardholder receives admission for one person on the first full weekend of each month at participating institutions, ranging from New York's Museum of Modern Art to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Bank of America Savings Account Features
All but one of Bank of America's savings accounts will get you just 0.01% APY on your balance, making it better to avoid this category if your first priority is high yields. However, the bank does provide a unique program that might be useful to those who have trouble sticking to a savings plan.
|Bank of America Regular Savings|
|Bank of America Minor Savings|
|Bank of America Custodial (UTMA) Savings|
|Bank of America Rewards Money Market Savings|
If the most important feature of a savings account is a high interest rate, Bank of America falls short of providing a strong set of options here. With a rate of 0.01%, the most use you'll get out of the Bank of America Regular Savings Account is to store emergency funds that can cover the occasional overdraft in your Core Checking Account. The Rewards Money Market Account isn't much better: you'll need at least $100,000 in your account for the maximum rate of just 0.06%, below average for a money market account. However, Bank of America does have a unique program to help you save more money with less effort, something that may prove useful if you're looking to increase the amount you put away.
Linking to your checking account, the Bank of America Keep the Change® savings program rounds up each purchase you make with your Bank of America debit card and transfers the extra amount to a savings account of your choice. For example, buying a cup of coffee for $4.57 will remove a total of $5.00 from your checking account, with the extra $0.43 going to your savings. This is a relatively uncommon feature among banks, although certain apps such as Acorns work on the same principle of rounding up small amounts.
How Does Bank of America Compare to Other Banks?
Bank of America shares a lot of major similarities with the competition, and you might find it more helpful to narrow down your choices based on which banks operate more branches in your area. Nevertheless, we've provided head-to-head comparisons of Bank of America with some of its major rivals. Check here for our compilation of other excellent choices.
Bank of America vs. Chase
These two large banks have more similarities than differences in their products, but there are some minor points worth noting. Compared to Chase, Bank of America's checking options are geared towards account holders with lower balances. For instance, while Chase provides one extra level of premium checking, Bank of America SafeBalance® Banking automatically declines all overdrafts. In addition, the strength of Chase's credit cards rewards program makes its a better bank for credit card options than Bank of America.
If you have both banks nearby, Bank of America is a better option if you need higher daily limits on your spending and withdrawals. People who can get value out of the Museums on Us® free admissions and Keep the Change® saving program might prefer Bank of America as well, as Chase lacks any comparable programs in those areas.
Bank of America vs. Wells Fargo Bank
Another large bank, Wells Fargo has even more branch locations and ATMs than Bank of America, but as with Chase, most of the differences have to do with minor features. From the standpoint of recent news, Wells Fargo has a lot of work to do in regaining customers' trust after the CFPB fined it $100 million for widespread account fraud among its employees. In an effort to replenish its deposits, Wells Fargo is offering a $200 bonus to new checking customers, making it a more attractive option than Bank of America to newcomers —so long as you trust that the bank has improved its internal practices.
Bank of America vs. Capital One
Capital One lacks the sheer geographical reach of Bank of America, but it pursues an alternative strategy by offering online checking and savings as well as brick-and-mortar accounts. While there's not much difference between Bank of America and Capital One's traditional accounts, the Capital One 360 Checking Account offers an APY of at least 0.20% on all balances. By comparison, the highest rate you can get on Bank of America's Rewards Money Market Account is 0.06% APY, which only applies to balances of at least $100,000.
If you're comfortable doing most or all of your banking through websites and apps, Capital One 360 may offer a superior experience and deliver a better return on your deposits than Bank of America. However, given that more complex products like loans and mortgages will likely require in-person service, you shouldn't dismiss the potential benefit of having a nearby Bank of America branch if you plan to buy a home or finance some other large purchase in the future.
Bank of America vs. Citibank
Citibank is one of the few banks whose ATM withdrawal limits and debit purchase limits are as high as those at Bank of America. However, it maintains far fewer branches and ATMs than Bank of America does, and Citibank's only advantage in terms of accessibility is its many international locations, which may prove more useful to frequent travelers. Citibank and Bank of America both have very low interest rates on savings, while their checking options are fairly similar in fees and limits. Overall, traveling often and having existing investment accounts with Citigroup are the only reasons you'd want to choose Citibank over Bank of America.