Bank Of America To Charge For “Free” Checking

Bank of America will start charging “Free Checking” customers starting 2/1/07. The bank will switch change the accounts to “MyAccess” checking, with a fee of $5.95/month.

When one SlickDeal forum member called to complain, the BoA rep said, “It’s not a big deal…it’s less than $100 a year.”

Fees can be avoided, however, on BoA MyAccess checking if direct deposit is set up or if there is a scheduled transfer of $25+/month to a BoA savings account.

Several months ago, Bank of America offered a $100 signon bonus for opening a new checking account. We even encouraged readers to take advantage of this apparently “strings free” offer, even if they didn’t intend of continuing to bank with BoA.

Looks like now the heretofore invisible string has been plucked. What rhymes with plucked? — BEN POPKEN

Bank of America CHARGING for “free” checking [SlickDeals] (Thanks to Omri!)

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  1. acambras says:

    It IS a big deal — now close my account, jerkwad.

    BTW, I don’t love Wachovia, but I do get free checking and there’s no minimum balance direct deposit requirement (good for us folks whose bosses persist in issuing paper payroll checks.)

  2. MeOhMy says:

    If it’s not a big deal, perhaps the CSR would deign to send me $6/month.

    And all this for privelege of allowing BofA (one letter away from BOFH – take note) to take your money, reinvest it for its own profit and not even give you a reacharound.

  3. spanky says:

    I really don’t mean this to sound hostile, and it’s not a rhetorical question, either: For those who have a choice (which is most people), why is anyone still using a bank instead of a credit union?

    I’m serious. I really am wondering if there’s some benefit I don’t know about or something.

  4. LTS! says:

    Spanky – the ability to not have to travel miles to withdraw money from an ATM should I need it would be one great reason I don’t use a credit union anymore.

    So BofA is changing their accounts.. big deal. Don’t use them. They aren’t offering free checking so they really aren’t charging for it. The subject of this post is misleading. They are changing the “free” checking account to be one that is not free. Imagine that, a company has a product offering that is great, a lot of people sign up, then change the service and see who cancels, if people don’t they make money. This is standard fare amongst banks and other financial institutions (great APR, no annual fee, blah blah blah).

    Oh well.. the only thing I wish my bank would give me would be the ability to download transactions into my financial software without a fee.. other than that.. I’m happy.

  5. acambras says:

    LTS! — Wachovia lets me download transactions into financial software for free — their online billpay is free, too. The only fees I ever end up paying are the ones for using a non-Wachovia ATM, which I try not to do.

    I swear I don’t work for Wachovia — I’m not even terribly fond of them so I’m not looking to be their cheerleader. But here at the Consumerist it’s cool that people can share info about what works for them.

    The prospect of switching accounts is daunting — I’ve got enough on my to-do list. But if Wachovia ever starts nickel-and-diming me for stuff, I’ll look into switching.

  6. SexCpotatoes says:

    I wonder if they let you out of the sign up contract they had to sign to get an account. I know when I got my checking account, there was a $200 penalty or some such hit should you cancel the account before a year is up.

  7. fishfucerk says:

    Bank Of America has started to do more and more shady shit after their merger with MBNA (coincidentially, about 10 days after the merger, they raised by interest rate on my BoFA Visa by about 12% — I’ve been a customer for 10 years in good standing). Needless to say, I’m planning on transferring my balance to another card ASAP. I will be leaving my account open with them, but I will *never* buy any other BOFA products. Ever. (I get free checking due to DD, and my balance isn’t really high enough for any bank to care about me).

  8. Max Power says:

    I got this letter from BofA. Best part is the “PS” which states that you can opt for a different checking plan if you call. So I called, and was able to retain a “free” checking account with no direct deposits or transfer minimums as long as I keep $750 in checking. I then told them how shady I thought this was and the customer rep actually agreed.

  9. …why is anyone still using a bank instead of a credit union?

    I use Wachovia because my mom had a Wachovia account when I started college and wanted to be able to transfer money into my account.

    Umm…that’s it really. I do want to open a savings account with a credit union but there isn’t a compelling reason to switch my existing checking accounts to another institution.

  10. spanky says:

    LTS! Maybe it’s a regional thing, but even during a brief transitory period when I was using a bank, I always used credit union ATMs because they were convenient and free.

    Here, we are just swimming with credit unions, and many–maybe most–of them offer free ATMs. We also have Credit Union Service Centers, which are run cooperatively by the credit union network, so anyone with an account at any of the many member networks can do their live teller banking there. (A lot of people I’ve talked to, even longtime CU members, have seen these service centers, but didn’t know what they were.)

    In fact, I think that the three closest financial institutions to my house are all credit unions, affiliated with the credit union network, so I would probably have to go out of my way to use a bank.

    Again, though, it could be a regional thing.

  11. homerjay says:

    I second Spanky (again). I know several people, including myself, have also pointed out in the past that their credit unions also credit you back fees charged by other banks for using their ATM’s. Mine does up to $5 per month. and I probably go to an ATM 3-4x per month. Sometimes its a SUM ATM which is free anyway, other times its my bank’s, and other times I go to a fee ATM. I don’t know that I’ve ever hit the $5 limit per month.

    ATM’s aside, There are hundreds of other reasons to choose a CU over a bank. SERVICE accounts for about 200 of those reasons. Its like banking in the old days but with all the new technology you’ve grown to want.

    Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

  12. I’ve actually switched AWAY from the credit union we’ve used for more than 10 years to BoA recently.

    The reason? The credit union’s rates are bad and their technology is awful. I have a newer version of Quicken. Our CU website doesn’t support the newer Quicken file format. When I called about it, they acted as though I had asked them to explain nuclear fission in theory and practice in 3 paragraphs or less. They were completely baffled.

    In addition, I travel internationally quite a bit. ATM fees will eat you alive unless your bank has a reciprocal agreement with an overseas institution.

  13. homerjay says:

    I can only imagine that you were working with a tiny CU. Just like banks, the larger they get the more services they can offer. The difference is that when a CU grows they don’t try harder to fiscally rape you.

    I use DCU. They’re huge (maybe even getting a little too big) but they still haven’t lost that touch and their rates are excellent.

  14. FYI, Charter One pulled something like this on me as well. Their (and I quote) “Totally Free Checking” account ended up costing me about $10-15 a month after the fees for calling the 800 number more than twice, fees for talking to the counter-person, and fees for using anybody else’s ATM. Best of all, I didn’t notice these little fees until they made the difference between a check going through and bouncing, and cost me $30, which I made them eat by threatening to get very very loud in their waiting-room. Needless to say, they’ve been added to the Ever-Growing List of Banks I Will Not Deal With. (If LaSalle screws me over, it looks like I’m stuck with mayonnaise jars–!) -PD

  15. acambras says:

    Years ago my old local bank was gobbled up by Bank One (which I guess has since been gobbled up by a bigger fish). I was really outraged when their schedule of fees stated that customers were allowed two free teller transactions per month, and that there would be a $2 charge for each teller transaction past the first two. I went in and closed my account, explicitly pointing out my reasons for doing so.

    The day any bank or other business charges me money for talking to a live person is the day I stop doing business with that company.

    I just hope grocery stores don’t start charging extra fees for people who prefer a live human cashier over the self-checkout lanes. Something always goes wrong in the self-checkout lane (perhaps my own ineptitude) and it always ends up taking me twice as long.

  16. datruesurfer says:

    Wow, I was considering BoA because of the $100 bonus they were offering awhile back but I went with Wachovia instead and they have been awesome despite everyone here claims otherwise. I get free checking, no minimums, Visa check card with cash back/rewards program and a branch right around the corner from my house.

  17. pestie says:

    My first-ever credit card was with a credit union. The experience I had with them was just fine, but I really prefer larger banks, BofA in particular (and no, I have no affiliation with them except as a customer). I like being able to find BofA ATM’s whether I’m at home in Florida or visiting family in Massachusetts. My debit card never fails me in Canada, either. Their online banking system is far and away the best I’ve ever used (it even works fine with Firefox/Linux, which some don’t, like Washington Mutual), and since I hate dealing with people directly and want to be able to do 99% of my banking electronically, BofA works perfectly for me.

    I also had excellent customer service experiences with them. The handful of times I’ve had to deal with them in person, they’ve been great. Hell, I decided at one point that I wanted to buy my first house, but I was totally unprepared (as in, zero down payment), and in a hurry. I had good credit, but that’s it. BofA got me 103% financing (to roll my closing costs into the loan), at 6.25% 30-year fixed rate, and all as one loan, too — no 80/20 split or anything. And, because my mortgage is with them, all my other banking is free, and I even got a free upgrade to an interest-bearing checking account. I understand that BofA is a big corporation and does their share of mercilessly screwing people, but I really can’t complain. I’ve had nothing but great experiences with them.

  18. krunk4ever says:

    I just wanted to say that I was initially on a student account which I later converted into a MyAccess account. I have never needed to pay a single service fee.

    The way you get around this loop hole is by setting up another account that link directly to your BofA account (i.e. INGDirect, HSBC, PayPal, etc)

    Easiest way would be to setup a monthly recurring transfer (HSBC and INGDirect offers this) which will transfer $1 to and from BofA, so your final total will remain the same for both accounts and $2 of your cash will be floating in between transfers for a couple days. Any EFT (electric fund transfer) counts as a direct deposit in the eyes of BofA. Back in college when I didn’t have ING or HSBC, I would put $5 into my PayPal account and each month have a reminder to withdraw $1. When I run out of money, I deposit $5 more into my PayPal account.

    A bit more work, but nothing really that hard to overcome in my opinion.

    //krunk (^_^x)

  19. geektom says:

    I will say upfront that I am a Bank of America employee, but I am a very small fish in a huge pond, and certainly have no influence as to products or policies. That being said, I will tell you that our customers LOVE the MyAccess checking product. The key is setting the customer up correctly in the first place; “Fees can be avoided, however, on BoA MyAccess checking if direct deposit is set up or if there is a scheduled transfer of $25+/month to a BoA savings account”– it has always been that way, since MyAccess first started. That is the description of who that account is “right” for. If you have DD and/or can afford to save $25/month, it is a totally free account– and you can come in and talk to a live person as many times you want. There are some regional differences, but I know it is that way in CA. Bank of America is not perfect and I am not a spokesperson, but I did want to clarify the issue of what makes it free.

  20. wintersweet says:

    I just called B of A (in California) and they said that student accounts will remain free and will not change. I still don’t like the sound of things, since I can’t get direct deposit at either place where I work–and since I am on a university schedule, there are months where I don’t get paid and won’t have anything to deposit. It’s nice that B of A doesn’t think $100 is a big deal, but to me, it is. Someday it won’t be, but it sounds like by the time I’m earning my full post-grad-school salary, I won’t be with B of A anymore. If they do change student accounts despite their statements, I expect I’ll be switching to Washington Mutual. (I’m getting pretty tired of companies screwing people like me over because we currently have low incomes. When we get our PhDs and MBAs and our incomes change, they’re going to regret losing our business.)

    P. S., geektom: I don’t believe that “customers LOVE” fees.

  21. xVAGUE says:

    While I understand that this isn’t the exactly the perfect fix, there is another option.

    Bank of America is currently offerring free checking accounts if you apply online, regardless of direct deposit or minimum balance.

    Sign up for the MyAccess Checking with the offer code FREECHECKING – yes this is available for existing customers but you do have to apply for a new account.

    What you can do is keep your current one open, open a new one while getting everything transferred over, then close the previous account (no charge for that). I hope that helps.

    Yes I am an employee, but if you have a question I will answer it honestly (to the point where I don’t get myself canned).

  22. xVAGUE says:

    ugghh lost my first post.

    While this isn’t a perfect fix, Bank of America is offering free checking, regardless of direct deposit or minimum balance. Open a NEW MyAccess Checking account online with the offer code FREECHECKING for the free account. Again it does require a new account, but you are not charged for opening a new account, or closing one.

    My suggestion would be to open this new account (no opening deposit required for 90 days), establish the account (if you have pre-authorized debits, order checks etc.) then transfer over all your information and close out the previous account (again, no charge for that)

    I am a Bank of America employee, but I will answer questions you guys may have honestly (to the point that it doesn’t get me canned).

  23. xVAGUE says:

    sweet! Double post for my first attempt, sorry guys.

  24. riggs says:

    This is typical of why I’m leaving BofA for a nice local bank…it seems an awful lot like bait-and-switch to me. I wonder if someone with the time and/or money couldn’t get a good attorney to rip this apart. The last straw for me was when BofA put a random hold on a small deposit…I went through about 3 different levels of CSRs and managers before being told “we treat all our customers equally.” So apparently the 10 years that I’ve given them my business means I get the shaft just as hard as the next guy. Thanks, BofA…

  25. joe_blow says:

    >>Bank of America is currently offerring free >>checking accounts if you apply online, >>regardless of direct deposit or minimum balance.
    >>Sign up for the MyAccess Checking with the offer >>code FREECHECKING – yes this is available for >>existing customers but you do have to apply for >>a new account.

    Just went through this process and said it waived fees for ONLY 2 months – so forget it!

  26. yes says:

    Btw, everyone, Wacko-via is now charging to download activity using Quicken (and I imagine Money too). What the hell is all this? First the banks encourage everyone to go paperless, and now they charge to download activity. I’m getting sick of all this big business B.S. nickel and diming me for the use of my money!