5 Confessions Of A Bank Of America Personal Banker

We confess, we love confessions. We are fascinated that BOA can be the largest and the most despised bank chain in the country. We received a letter from a person who identifies himself as a former Bank Of America personal banker and he’s ready to talk. Have a seat in the Consumerist confessional. 5 confessions of a BOA personal banker, inside..

I worked at BOA for about a year and half, first as a Teller and second as a Personal Banker, here is what I learned in that time -

5. We cannot do anything for you over the phone, so don’t ask.
Don’t call asking for your balance, or transfers, or pretty much anything. We aren’t supposed to do it. That’s what the 1-800 number is for. So to save you time and headache, don’t call your local bank, unless you know someone there really well and they break the rules for you.

4. I’m only allowed to refund fees if the system allows, otherwise it’s my job on the line.

Ah yes, a matrix, every customer’s favorite word. Yep, we use a matrix to determine if you deserve a fee. If the system says no, tough. Sometimes I can make exceptions, but then I get “friendly” emails and talks with management. So basically I don’t care if you’re a single mother, elderly widow, or blind, you can’t have a refund. The system keeps track of how often you ask and who you talked to. So if one banking center tells you no, don’t go to another center, they’ll tell you no as well.

3. Holds happen on deposits and there isn’t much we can do about it.
Yep, BOA will put holds on deposits. And the best part is, generally we don’t verify funds with other banks (privacy concerns) so you just have to wait it out. The teller is supposed to notify you, but sometimes they don’t. Don’t ask a personal banker to release the funds, we can’t do anything about it. Also just so you know, BOA charges accounts based on largest amounts first. So if you go out on Friday and buy a TV for $700 and then food for $10, (an you only had $700 in your account) the $10 will get the fee, and your debit card will not get rejected, so it will keep working. And then you are stuck looking at point 5 on this list.

2.Honestly I don’t know that much about loans.
This may come as a surprise, but most personal bankers (unless they’ve changed the policy since I’ve left) only have 1 week of loan training. Yes, one week, which means most personal bankers know basically nothing about the loans they are selling you. Yes you’ll find some that do (and definitely look for these people) but generally no, we know nothing. The training consists of a few hours of explaining each type of loan is, and then sales training. Its odd that a bank would provide “loan” training by basically providing sales training. And when you are in states with difficult loan laws (Texas’ home equity loans) its about impossible to understand in 8 hours (which is how long my training lasted on HELOC’s and HELOANS). Also to tie into this a couple of things – auto loans rates are generally lower at pretty much every other financial institution in the US. And the banking centers do not handle auto loans, so don’t ask them. And finally understand that personal bankers are expected to sell a loan of some type to every person that comes in the bank.

1. I’m not actually here to help, I’m here to sell you something.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has visited a banking center recently, but a personal banker’s job is not to provide customer service first, its to sell products. BOA actually views their banking centers more as retail stores, than actual “service” providing banks. If you come in to cash a check and you don’t have an account, expect a full out sales blitz. If you have a checking account but no savings, look out. And if you even as so much glance at the loan rates, be ready because we will try to offer you every loan product in the book. If you are a student (or look under 30) I’ll try to sell you a credit card. Basically you are nothing more than a generic customer waiting to be sold a product, not a person here for the services the bank offers. BOA does not offer services, only “products.”

(Photo: Getty)

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  1. Byzantine says:

    #1 doesn’t surprise me at all based on how I’ve been treated at BoA. That’s one reason why I don’t go there anymore.

  2. nrich239 says:

    #1 comes as no surprise. Due to “security concerns”, I had to go into a bank center to update the address on my account after moving. The banker was helpful but then proceeded to look at my accounts to see how she could sell me something. She was disappointed to find out that I already had most of their services. (Checking, Savings, keep the change, BofA CC)

  3. B says:

    Subtitle 4 reasons not to do business with Bank of America, and one semi-useful fact about the phone system.

  4. boandmichele says:

    USAA! USAA!

    i will never regret the day i closed my BOA account. they are the microsoft/walmart of the banking world.

  5. Wormfather says:

    Bank of America, bank of opportunists.

  6. Pro-Pain says:

    #1 – Reason to NEVER band with BoA. Not ever.

  7. Pro-Pain says:

    *bank

  8. boandmichele says:

    @Pro-Pain: @Pro-Pain: either one, really.

  9. Is it wrong that I don’t think this is horribly unreasonable? I mean, it’s a pain and annyoing that they willt ry to get you to open accounts, but I dont’ think any of this is *unique* to BoA.

    Like #3. “We’ll protect ourselves from you kiting us”

    Like #5. “We’d probably be liable if someone stole your identity, so we want to make sure it’s you.”

    #1 is a drag, I’ll admit. But every other bank I’ve been at does this too, so I can’t hold it against BoA. It’s not like they’re signing you up for products without your permission, though.

  10. Me - now with more humidity says:

    I call bullshit. My BofA personal banker does all the things this one says he/she/it can’t do. And he knows plenty about loans.

  11. graymulligan says:

    meh…find a good credit union, and enjoy it. I’m done with banks in general, unless there’s some sort of huge gap between rates at my CU. (and yeah, I know…CU’s aren’t the answer to everything, but for checking/savings/small loans, I’ll stick with them)

  12. mavrick67 says:

    It’s not only BOA, go to any of the majors; Wachovia, SunTrust, Washington Mutual you’ll get the same. If you want better treatment, go to a local community bank.

  13. Carl3000 says:

    So basically you’re lazy and don’t want to lift a finger to help anyone. These confessions are always just some entry level employee telling everyone to stop bothering them at work. Big surprise. I’m always expecting to hear something shocking but they never deliver.

  14. drgonzo311 says:

    With Wachovia, depending on how long you’ve been a member, they will usually waive fees (even overdraft) over the phone (try NOT yelling at them). If you are not successful on the first try, call again and get another associate. This has worked for me every time.

  15. Coelacanth says:

    Given how BofA has treated me as an existing customer, I find it shocking that they’d even want to blindly extend credit to people under 30… especially if they consider people with excellent credit “risky.” Of course, that would be “rational.”

    Oh wait, they just want fees and bet that the younger ones are probably too stupid to read much into their Terms and Conditions…

  16. iMike says:

    Point 4. I’ve had what I consider to be an unreasonable number of fees waived, including those imposed by another brokerage when transferring assets to BOA, credit card annual fees and of course all fees associated with the linked checking accounts, so YMMV on this. Plus my banker guy likes to take me to lunch.

    Point 1. Duh. BOA is a for-profit business.

  17. We didn’t even CALL them personal bankers when I interned at BofA — they were just RETAIL bankers.

    Private banking was for the really rich, and they got kick-ass service (I interned in private banking). There was a sort-of mid-tier at the time they called “personal banking” that was for the sort-of rich who got better than retail, but less than private banking. That was like 10 years ago and mid-merger, though, so they may have changed terminology. (And that may be why “Me’s” personal banker can help him, if the OP is a retail banker and Me’s is a personal banker; or if Me’s is still using the older terminology.)

    But yeah, retail banking was the bastard stepchild when I was there. Nobody who worked in the private bank banked at BofA unless they could afford to get out of the retail tier.

    It was really interesting to me, because corporate and private banking were like an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT BANK, really great people, really great service, etc. Retail was just horrific, and they definitely hired from a different pool. I actually really enjoyed working there, but I’d never bank there unless I had enough money to be in the private tier.

  18. moxy says:

    Not to defend BoA, but I stay with them because I have their secret weapon – Premier Banking. Although it’s difficult to get (you have to have accounts or be linked to accounts with a relatively large sum of assets* – Thanks, Mom and Dad!), they route your call to a live person, always have you talk with the same personal banking team, solve problems effortlessly and honestly look out for your well-being. Not satisfied with your BoA credit card? They will three-way call the credit division and see what they can negotiate on your behalf. Just called to reset your pin? They’ve noticed that your free student checking is about to expire, but they can switch the account over to a different, fee-free checking option if you’d like. These are the people who get things done. I surmise that Me is referring to these personal bankers and not the branch variety.
    Sad that their regular customer service is so different.

    *The large sum of assets ($100,000+) need not be permanently at BoA; just having them there for a short period of time is enough to convince BoA to be nice to you forever.

  19. SuchetaGadgetscenti says:

    Response to FrankGrimesJr – #1 reason why my wife and I left BOA. I
    received a credit card from them with a $4000 credit limit. Did I apply
    for the card? No. Did someone offer it to me while I was cashing a
    check? No. They literally mailed it to my door without a word from me.
    And it wasn’t a “pre-approved” offer…it was an actual credit card that
    only needed to be activated. I was furious. Went to the banking center
    and inquired how this could possibly be legal. Their response “we have
    started issuing cards based on good faith to our ‘exceptional’
    customers. But don’t worry, we didn’t run a credit check to issue it”.
    My response “how do you know I’m ‘exceptional’? I’ve only had an account
    for 3 months here. Secondly, take this card and shove it.”

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  20. klfielder says:

    Response to FrankGrimesJr – #1 reason why my wife and I left BOA. I received a credit card from them with a $4000 credit limit. Did I apply for the card? No. Did someone offer it to me while I was cashing a check? No. They literally mailed it to my door without a word from me. And it wasn’t a “pre-approved” offer…it was an actual credit card that only needed to be activated. I was furious. Went to the banking center and inquired how this could possibly be legal. Their response “we have started issuing cards based on good faith to our ‘exceptional’ customers. But don’t worry, we didn’t run a credit check to issue it”. My response “how do you know I’m ‘exceptional’? I’ve only had an account for 3 months here. Secondly, take this card and shove it.”

  21. captadam says:

    “Banking center.” UGH. I’ve noticed that BofA employees, no matter how cynical, seem to have internalized this little bit of B.S.

  22. Thunderpants says:

    I haven’t worked in a bank for over 10 years, so things may have changed, but I’m pretty sure that #3 is not under the bank’s control. It was called Regulation CC. Depending on the origin of the check, there is a 1-3 day hold on the funds. The only checks that go in as cash are Government checks and direct deposits.

    Bank fees are the devil. “Totally Free Checking” started all of this nickel and dime business(in my opinion.)

  23. LINIS says:

    I don’t see why people care about banks trying to sell products to them whenever they come in. It’s not unique to BOA, and it’s not unreasonable to expect that a BUSINESS wants to make money. I’ve been a customer of BOA for 6 years and yes, they always try to sell me a credit card when I go to the teller. But who cares?? For the inconvenience of saying “No thank you,” I get FREE checking with FREE online banking and FREE use of probably one of the biggest ATM networks in the country. BOA has never screwed anything up, and I actually take responsibility for my actions so I don’t need to complain about some overdraft fee or ATM fee for using another bank’s services.

    I know banks aren’t perfect but seriously, who’s getting the better deal? I get a safe place to keep my money while still being able to access it pretty much wherever I go, cash checks, and transfer money to my other interest earning accounts for free. They’re more than welcome to try to offer me a product whenever I’m there, it’s not like they’re going to hold my money hostage if I say no.

  24. choochbertucci says:

    this confession may not apply to all personal bankers, but it is certainly consistent with the experiences of a boa employee in my family.

    she has worked at the same location starting there before it was bought by summit bank, and fleet bank, and has a loyal following (if you can have one as a personal banker)due to many referrals from her long-time customers. in the last 4 mo., she has received 2 verbal warnings because she hasn’t opened up enough credit cards and pushed enough superfluous products.

    the boa is in a seaside destination with a very small pop. in the winter and a significantly larger pop. in the summer, but her target numbers are based on the summer sales and they are not adjusted for the winter.

    also, in the summer, many of their customers are immigrants who are here for seasonal work. they come to her because she has a reputation for being helpful. last summer, she received a verbal warning for not opening enough credit cards with these immigrants. one of the immigrants who happened to deal with another banker returned to the bank with their new card and was sitting at my family member’s desk saying “i don’t know what this is, why do i need this?”

    boa is not a bank, its a federally sanctioned license to steal.

  25. blackmage439 says:

    No one in the Chicagoland area should bank at a BoA. The last time I went to my bank (West Suburban), and spoke to a personal banker, I was not upsold on anything. Quite frankly, I have never been offered anything. I only accept the higher returns on both my savings and checking accounts than BoA offers.

    That’s right, I banked at BoA for about a month, until I realized their glorified keep-the-change “savings” program was nothing but a complicated transfer with crappy cash-back returns. I can do that myself. Sign into online banking –> set up automatic transfer. I probably earn more in interest through WSB than BoA’s crappy rates and cash-back.

    Screw you, BoA!

  26. dragonfire81 says:

    #1 is the new definition of customer service in America.

  27. mookiemookie says:

    @captadam: When I was a banker at Bank One (Now Chase) they were called “banking centers” as well. And having done the same soul crushing job as this guy, I can tell you that all of these things are true. Banks aren’t service providers anymore, now they’re horrible product pushers and I dread walking into a branch.

  28. SinisterMatt says:

    #1 is not surprising. Most if not all banks do this.

    Cheers!

  29. mac-phisto says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: yeah, i don’t think we’re talking about the traditional personal or private bankers here.

    as someone else stated, this is a big push in retail banking now – in addition to tellers, banks provide “free roamers” that try to assist people who have “special needs”. i have a friend in brooklyn working for chase in a similar position.

    private banking still exists, but at a bank like boa, it’s reserved almost entirely for large commercial account holders. even large money individual account holders are small fish to them unless they represent commercial opportunities.

  30. exkon says:

    I can see one of my friends already putting a few words on this subject. This employee was working for a year and half, part teller and part personal banker? Hardly seems like enough experience to write anything substantial here.

    I’ve been a BofA customer for over 5 years and have a close relationship with my personal banker who is incredibly helpful.

  31. dancemonkey says:

    Point 3 is not entirely true… actually, it’s completely false. My wife and I get around this constantly.

    When making a deposit, ask to have the funds made available immediately. They’ll say “I can’t do that”, and you’ll say “Just cash the check and then deposit the cash.” It’s that simple.

    They may need to ask a manager, but honestly there’s no reason they should. If you want to cash the check and get money in-hand it’s your prerogative, and then you just hand it right back to them to deposit immediately.

    Larger amounts may make them cough, but again, you’re just cashing a legitimate check and depositing it. No-brainer.

  32. JiminyChristmas says:

    @captadam: Yeah, I always find it sad when people have totally internalized corporate-speak. It’s dehumanizing for both the employees and the customers.

    I don’t know about you, but I still call them just “banks.”

  33. Ken says:

    BOA is fine in my opinion. I use them because they are everywhere, easy to get $ out or to bank with them. There is one right next to my work and another one .2 miles away from my home.

    I only use them for checking account though. I have most of my $ elsewhere.

    I like that they scan your deposit slip and checks for reference.

    And the bankers are extra friendly and nice, make me feel important even though i know they don’t mean it and they were told to do just that. I know if i see them elsewhere, they would just ignore me.

  34. @Me: That’s probably because your personal banker worked for a bank that was later [bought by a bank that was bought by a bank that was] bought by B of A. I had a person like that, too; they were actually pretty knowledgeable and didn’t constantly try to sell me things…and then B of A fired them.

  35. NathaniaCleodaeus says:

    I was a banker at BofA for almost five years. It is true what one person said about the job being soul-crushing. The Bank sets sales quotas incredibly high so it isn’t unusual to be able to literally smell the fear of some associates in the banking centers – particularly new ones.

    #5 This isn’t exactly true. The deal is that the associates in the banking centers are often so busy that they simply don’t have the time for a chat on the phone. Not that they don’t want to help – they just can’t do it. Time is money as they say.

    #4 Sad but true! It used to be different. Now, no matter how justifiable, if the computer matrix says ‘no’ then the answer is NO! That one is unforgivable in my opinion. There are sometimes situations that don’t fit neatly into a little check-box in the decisioning system.

    #3 Holds can often be negotiated but you’d better have some compelling argument. Why would the bank stick it’s neck out just because you want your money before they actually collect it? That’s bad business.

    #2 SHAME ON YOU, former Personal Banker! BofA does hold a relatively brief formal training session but they provide you with about ten reems of documents and tutorials to help you to understand the loans. The information is there so don’t blame the bank for your ignorance. That is unfair.

    #1 Bullshit! If the associate projects that aura that you are just a number and that they don’t care that is a failing of themselves and their manager. The bank spends untold sums of money to attract customers. They are ruthless with associates as far as customer satisfaction is concerned. A large part of my bonus was tied to the anonymous customer satisfaction surveys of people who had been in to visit the banking center earlier in the day. They want people to feel like you have a personality, that you care and that you genuinely want to help them solve their problems. They way I think they look at selling products is ‘Hey…you are going to do your business somewhere so why not here?’. That only makes good sense. It isn’t the end of the world to be offered a credit card or home equity loan.

    BofA isn’t evil but they are far from perfect. They will definitely charge you junk fees if you aren’t diligent in reading your statements and understanding the account policies. The good outweighs the bad in my opinion. I still have my accounts there to this day. Better the devil you know, I suppose.

  36. mac-phisto says:

    @dancemonkey: that’s a fallacy. “cashing a check” simply means that they are releasing the amount of the check in cash (but holding an equivalent amount in your account). see, you’re cashing against available funds.

    perhaps the funds you are cashing against are held in a savings instead of a checking (so the hold isn’t apparent to you), but rest assured it is still occurring.

  37. dancemonkey says:

    @mac-phisto: I had a lengthy counterargument, but bored myself just reading it over for spelling errors. I’ll sum it up with: maybe, but not in our case.

    Any bank manager can choose to make funds available immediately, so I guess it just depends on your relationship with your manager. We’ve never had trouble at our branch.

  38. tgifsf says:

    Just got off the phone with BofA. I have VISA overdraft protection. This month I neglected to transfer money from my other bank, and overdrew my account. BofA is now charging me a $10 fee per overdraft on top of 24% interest for a cash advance. Reverse the $10 charges? FUHGEDDABOUTIT. But since I am such a good customer, the banker pushed me to start using the card for purchases by lowering that interest rate. SHEESH!

  39. ketn747 says:

    @mac-phisto:

    Actually BOA doesn’t hold against funds in your accounts, its another matrix. Usually you can cash a check and not have the funds to cover it, at least in what I have seen.

  40. basket548 says:

    @Ken:

    Completely agree with you there. I had two accounts, one with Chase and one with BofA, and when I moved to NYC I decided to consolidate into one. Went into both branches, and difference was night and day. If nothing else, BofA branch officers know how to make you feel welcome.

    Phone support, on the other hand…

  41. FLConsumer says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: There’s a HUGE difference between having a private banking account vs. retail banking account. I can’t think of any time when I’ve not been pleased with Wachovia’s Wealth Management division. I don’t even think I’ve ever heard them say “no” to anything I’ve requested.

  42. FLConsumer says:

    Re: ATM fees, forgot to put this in the above post. Between my ING Direct account and my credit union’s ATM network, I usually am <3 miles away from a fee-free ATM at any moment. Often < 1 mile.

  43. mac-phisto says:

    @dancemonkey: ok, if you say so. on the other side of the curtain, we laugh at people that think they are bypassing the hold by “cashing the check & depositing the cash”, but YMMV. if your relationship is really that great, you wouldn’t have to go thru all that – they would just bypass the hold, no?

  44. LibertyReign says:

    @FrankGrimesJr:

    LOL leave it to Frank to always choose the side of corporate whorism over quality, service, and mutual respect. Never let us down Frank!

  45. CharlieInSeattle says:

    Sounds like people really need to drop BOA like a lead brick, go to a credit union.

  46. enm4r says:

    @mac-phisto: private banking still exists, but at a bank like boa, it’s reserved almost entirely for large commercial account holders.

    “The Private Bank” at BoA is aka US Trust. I think the min is $200k deposits, and obviously this guy isn’t with the private bank. There is all a pretty big difference between private and commercial banking, as with commercial you will have an entire relationship team for 100% of your needs instead of just the private banker and his/her small team.

  47. jsttheman says:

    I’m sorry but this personal banker has no idea what he is talking about. I was going to write this long expansive thing as to why but the thing is that he’s just flat out wrong and it makes me sick.

  48. jsttheman says:

    @graymulligan: GO ahead. I’m so excited for everyone to go to credit unions. Then what is going to happen you ask? Well, the Credit Unions are going to get so big that customer service will be an issue. Go ahead. Join the credit union hype. That’s all it is.

  49. jsttheman says:

    @dancemonkey: If you cash the check and it’s not drawn on a BofA account, it doesn’t make the check good. In fact, there would still be a hold placed on it if it’s warranted.

  50. Well, it’s good to see #1 on the list. I have a BofA account due to them buying an otherwise fine bank I had my money on before. The reason I still have my money there is because I don’t really deal with BofA that much. All I do is get to the ATM once a week, and I speak to an actual bank teller maybe once in two months.

    However, whenever I do, it’s like talking to a damn car sales person. They’ll try to sell you anything and everything they possibly can, and won’t stop the sales pitch even if I just pick up my things and walk away. I think I’m going to pretend being deaf next time. That should be fun.

  51. mythago says:

    On holds, banks are REQUIRED TO INFORM YOU when they are putting a hold on funds. And some of those “required” holds are longer than the law actually permits. There’s not a law that says banks must hold your check; why would there be?

  52. thelushie says:

    So what exactly is a personal banker? They are just tellers right, which I equate with being a grocery checker at Kroger. They don’t like that analogy but to me it’s true. The only difference is that tellers are overpaid for low intelligence.

  53. Invalid_User_Name says:

    Thank you for confirming what I pretty much already knew.

  54. Invalid_User_Name says:

    BTW — That is not meant as sarcasm. Sorry if it appears to be.

  55. LouM says:

    Kicked BoA to the curb years ago. Fed up with the constant fees–the final straw: I kept a substantial amount of money in my checking before moving it to CDs etc. I continually got sales calls for loans etc. until I confronted the branch manager and he revealed he trolled accounts for sales leads.

    Wachovia has been much more service oriented, removing fees, etc.

  56. ketn747 says:

    @LouM:

    Every BOA manager I’ve known admitted they troll to.

  57. arl84 says:

    A lot of this is true, except number 2. This personal banker is obviously just ignorant, or too lazy to read all of the information they provide to him. Just like a lot of the customers.

    BOA does not have the manpower or money to run a banking college. They provide the materials and it’s up to you to learn it. They can’t handhold everyone through everything. It’s just not feasible. And yes, they give you as much time as you need to learn the material. And they have people available that you can ask questions if you need to.
    There is so much more I could add… but meh. I think everyone has already said what I was going to.