Bank of America: "Free" Checking Means You Have To Call And Have The Fee Waived Every Month

Reader Tara has a checking account with Bank of America that’s supposed to be “free” if she meets 1 of 3 balance requirements. She meets one of them, but Bank of America keeps charging her $20 — and they don’t intend to stop.

My husband and I have 4 accounts with Bank of America – equity line of credit, checking, savings and a credit card. To qualify for free checking, you have to meet 1 of 3 requirements. 1st is to have a minimum of $5,000 in your checking account, the 2nd is to have $5,000 in your savings and the 3rd is to have a line of credit over a certain amount. Well, our equity loan is over that 3rd limit.

However, for the last couple of months, we continue to get the $20 account maintenance fee on our checking account. The first time we called, the associate waived the fee. The second time the associate waived the fee but told us we will have to continue to call to have it waived EVERY TIME after it was charged.

We were not sure why, so this last time my husband and I were very angry. He went in to our local branch and wanted a complete explanation of why we were continuing to get the charges and when they were going to stop.

They told him that though you only had to meet 1 of 3 requirements, that only one the computer checked every month was the $5,000 limit in your checking (which for most average Americans is the only requirement that is most likely the hardest to meet, especially during these economic times).

Even if our savings met the limit we would still get the $20 fee. My husband asked if he was really going to have to monitor our account every month for it, and the only way to have it not charged to us is to call after the fact EVERY MONTH? She said he was correct! So, Bank of America is more than willing to rip you off with the hopes that you don’t keep up with your accounts, even though you meet the requirements for fee-free banking! We have banked with them for 8 years and have 4 accounts, and the answer we got was that we would have to call monthly, sit on hold and speak to someone different every time to make sure the bank wasn’t taking the money they shouldn’t be taking in the first place. Ridiculous! Needless to say, as soon as our house sells (it’s on the market now), we are closing all accounts and moving elsewhere.


Tara C. from Nashville, TN

Sounds like a good plan to us. Anyone else have this problem with Bank of America?

(Photo: epicharmus )

Comments

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  1. tresor says:

    I quit BoA for a similar reason. I maintained enough $ through
    linked accounts for fees to be waived, but every time a CD matured, it
    unlinked when it was renewed, and I was slapped with a fee for
    supposedly dipping below the minimum balance. They weren’t even very
    nice about waiving the fees after I waited through phone trees, and
    after this happened several times, I decided I was done.

  2. Coder4Life says:

    Do they have free customer service employees there or what?

  3. Aren’t there enough online checking accounts (some willing to waive ATM fees) where you don’t have to use BoA? Assuming there aren’t any B&M banks around their area?

    BoA = bad.

  4. HIV 2 Elway says:

    I’ve never understood why anyone would pay for checking. Also, who keeps $5k in a 0% checking account?

  5. jadenton says:

    You’ve signed up for the account on certain terms, and the bank is taking your money every month unless you tell them to stop and honor the terms of your contract. Thats systematic fraud. Call your attorney general.

  6. Farquar says:

    I don’t undertand how BOA keeps up with there hundreds of different account setups. We have free checking with BOA and none of the three apply to us, and we don’t get charged $20 and have to call to get it refunded. It’s just free. No strings.

    I just don’t understand how they keep track of everything.

  7. tripnman says:

    Had this happen to both my business and personal accounts with BofA. The accounts had been open for years, with no fees ever, then one statement they started dinging me the $20 (each account, across five accounts). Being a good consumerist, I caught this right away and the fees were refunded immediately. It happened again and again, so for six months we played the “You owe me $100″ game.

    When I finally escalated the issue to higher-ups, I was told that it was a simple “linking” problem that the Tier 1 phone reps could not see nor correct. Now, supposedly, no fees are charged to any of my accounts without human authorization from corporate. So far, so good.

    BTW, I half jokingly told the last guy that BofA owed me three days interest on the $100 for each error, and by my math this cost me $5. He said “I don’t want to do that compounding interest math – How’s $50?”. Done deal.

  8. Corydon says:

    @Coder4Life: No kidding! How much is it costing BoA to have customers calling to to waive the fee every month?

    I guess the assumption is that many people won’t notice the $20 being drained from their account every month and that the windfall exceeds the costs of administration. Sounds pretty shady to me. Just another reason to never do business with BoA.

  9. GothamGal says:

    This was the last straw for me. I’ve read so many BoA horror stories on here, but have been very lucky so far to not have any of my own with them. My checking account with BoA is the last of it. I opened a USAA checking today and will be in the process of transferring all transactions over to them by month’s end.

  10. enm4r says:

    @Farquar: You’d be surprised. Having taken a look inside, most people don’t even know the old account platforms work or were converted. A lot of the discrepancies are because of account platform conversions. It amazed me how much manual work behind the scenes went on when clients (corporate clients) would complain about how something different happened with new vs old accounts.

    Also, it amazes me how much revenue this makes. I don’t know how much, but even if 1/3 of the “free checking are charged, and then half of those people (doubt it’s that high) get it reversed, they still made out with a boatload of essentially free money. I don’t even think this is directly intentional, it’s because it would cost too much to streamline and consolidate everything. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

  11. Kat@Work says:

    “My husband and I have 4 accounts with Bank of America…”

    (Obligatory)…Well there’s your mistake right there. :P

  12. ThunderRoad says:

    Sounds like mail fraud to me if they send you a bill knowing you don’t owe it.

  13. Ein2015 says:

    Sounds like a good reason to sue… not really for any damages, just to get them to stop and to pay the legal fees.

  14. phelander says:

    “Typical COnsumerist Commentor”: What a dumbass for using a bank and then complaining about said bank. Keep your money in the mattress and your mouth shut, bitch.

  15. chrisgeleven says:

    I have a free account with Bank of America and do not have this issue. I have been doing direct deposits to my account, which is one of the requirements to have free checking.

    That sounds like BS for the associate to tell you to call every month. I would ask for a manager and be persistent until you get the answer you want.

  16. Bladefist says:

    @HIV 2 Elway: The same people who are right now thawing out their credit cards

  17. hatrack says:

    @Farquar:
    Apparently they don’t. Very well anyway.

  18. Wormfather says:

    @Coder4Life: They have approx. 5 reps, the hold times would indicate such.

  19. Comms says:

    Here’s what I don’t get: If you post a complaint letter on Consumerist you’re probably a reader of Consumerist. And if you’re a reader of Consumerist you’re probably aware that BoA, Wamu, Chase and all the rest of those big banks are shit.

    Complete shit.

    They don’t give a fuck about you or your money except in that they want you to keep your money with them so they can steal it.

    Knowing all of this, why are you still with BoA? Are you retarded? Find a credit union here: [www.howtojoinacu.org] and stop being a sucker.

  20. @phelander: wow, you certainly get the “overreactionary commenter of the week”. There have been numerous stories on this site and others telling of the problems of BoA. I have had my own problems.

    Part of being a good consumer is making wise decisions and whenever a business looks to be doing wrong, speak with your money and move to another bank.

    I certainly don’t think she’s a dumbass (as I’m sure none of the others do), but telling someone to switch banks sounds like a perfectly viable solution to me. Stop being so thin-skinned.

  21. HIV 2 Elway says:

    @Bladefist: Touche

  22. matt314159 says:

    You should never, EVER have to pay a bank to let them hold onto your money for you while you’re not using it. The entire idea is utterly absurd. I’ve been happy with my local credit union who doesnt charge a fee despite the fact that I rarely have over $500 in my checking account, let alone $5000…

  23. johnva says:

    This is stupid, but you can get a totally free checking account from BoA. There is no reason not to do that unless you are benefiting from one of the other services that they throw in with the higher-end type of checking account (like free safe deposit boxes). No fees or minimum balance requirements if you just get the right kind of account (though I think you have to apply for the checking account online, or they will require direct deposit to avoid the fee).

  24. ClankBoomSteam says:

    Yet another reason to never — ever — bank with BofA.

    They’re blatantly abusive to their customers, and whenever they’re called on their shenanigans, their response is analogous to the wife beater telling his spouse, “aw baby, you make me hit you”.

    I dropped BofA (for WaMu… eh) 5 or 6 years ago now, and I went from having some kind of banking crisis roughly once a month (not getting services I paid for, having my funds ‘held’ for no reason, weird charges, impossibly rude CSRs…) to having no banking problems in the entire time since. Coincidence?

    BofA is evil. If you bank with them, I can’t recommend getting away from them strongly enough. Run.

  25. RINO-Marty says:

    This is surely some brand, legally, of fraud or theft. I would contact your attorney general. Sounds like a class-action lawsuit to me. You can’t advertise a service at a given rate $x, charge $x+20, and then expect customers to have to call to receive the correct rate. That’s fraud.

  26. phelander says:

    @Dead Wrestlers Society: Anyone want to tell him where he fouled up?

  27. Mapmaker says:

    I had the same problem with BoA. Because of all the crap I’ve seen on the Consumerist, I closed my account about a month ago. Problem solved!

  28. ArgusRun says:

    @Comms: It’s simple really. My guess is that the majority of BoA customers have no serious problems with them. I am one of them. I have several accounts and my mortgage through BoA. The only problem I’ve ever had is their seeming inability to pay my property taxes on time. My municipality keeps charging them interest, and they pay it.

    We hear all the horror stories, but we hear them about every major bank and some local credit unions. So to switch from what has so far been reliable and convenient banking to an unknow bank, is somewhat daunting.

  29. johnva says:

    @ClankBoomSteam: Well, I’ve never had any banking problems with them (except for a couple of very minor issues that the immediately and courteously corrected). So I can’t say I’ve had the same experience in the 10 years+ I’ve been with BoA.

  30. mynameisnate says:

    I’ve had the same problem with my Prima Account. I have well over the 10K minimum in high yielding cds. I have to call EVERY month for the past 2 years. So many excuses, no action (e.g. accounts not linked, some reps don’t know the rules, etc). Yes, I’m sick of it, but I like the no trading fee brokerage account and there are just too many BofA ATMs around me. But, even after they promise every month to fix it, they don’t.

  31. macinjosh says:

    C’mon guys don’t blame BoA. this is the work of one employee, not corporate policy.

    Oh wait…

  32. @Comms:

    Here’s what I don’t get: If you post a comment on Consumerist you’re probably a reader of Consumerist. And if you’re a reader of Consumerist then you know that it’s a site where people write to the editors about their problems with companies. And Consumerist decides which problems to post, not the readers or submitters.

    Knowing all of this, why do you read Consumerist if people’s problems and the editors’ choices irritate you so much? Are you retarded? Find another consumer website here [www.google.org] and stop being a troll.

  33. Jesse says:

    It’s because of these BS like this why I am considering switching over to a credit union. They are very easy to get into nowadays.

  34. jjkean2 says:

    @GothamGal

    I did the same thing. In fact next week, after I confirm my direct deposit is switched over, I’m ending my abusive relationship with BOA once and for all!

  35. Jesse says:

    @Bladefist:

    I bet you they also have a Dave Ramsey and/or Suze Orman shrine they kneel down and pray to every night.

  36. cmdrsass says:

    “especially during these economic times” is a meaningless phrase right up there with “we’re taking it seriously”.

  37. Farquar says:

    @phelander: And really, it wasn’t all that subtle.

  38. NoWin says:

    @RINO-Marty: Call your state AG when you deal with a merchant. For banks, the AG will defer to the following agencies, so call these dudes first:

    The Comptroller of the Currency charters “national banks”

    The Federal Reserve Board, and

    The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)

    State Regulators: In each state there is a department of State Government – frequently called the Banking Commission or Department of Banking and Finance — managed by an official called the Commissioner or Director or Superintendent of Banks that regulates “state chartered” banks.

  39. stevejust says:

    This does sound like a good class action if it’s happening to lots of others. I wouldn’t bank with BoA, but if I were in this predictament, I would just wait until the fees exceeded the cost of taking them to small claims court, and then take them to small claims court. Its kind of a hassle, but would also be worth it to me. It is amazing what can happen when you take very large companies to very small small claims court. Often times they will give you more to settle than you would get just talking to someone who should fix the problem in the first place.

  40. ViperBorg says:

    I’ve never advocated slave labor. Here’s another example of why. Stupid BoA. I have a new slogan for you.

    Bank of America: The WalMart of banks.

  41. carlogesualdo says:

    I’ve read enough Bob Sullivan Red Tape Chronicles to know that exactly what they want: for you not to notice that $20 coming out of your account every month. You do – they count on the fact that most others don’t.

    I had my own problems with BoA. I had an account with them for 3 months. They deliberately misinterpreted the USA PATRIOT Act to mean they could only deliver bank statements to my PO box. All other correspondence had to be mailed to my physical address, whether I was capable of receiving mail there or not. So when they misprinted my checks, then put stop payments on the misprinted checks, and then mistakenly reused the check numbers from the checks with stop payments on them (you can see where this is going, right?) Thank goodness for online account access and a phone call from my doctor’s office, or I would have had no idea my checks were bouncing because of the stop-payment orders. And then when I promptly closed the account, they promptly reopened it when a direct deposit came through that I forgot about (I would rather they just returned it to sender). I was at the teller window in a snap demanding my cash before it disappeared into some unknown fee abyss.

    I think I’ll just stick to small banks and credit unions from now on, thanks.

  42. choinski says:

    My accounts are charged only $10 and the $5k minimum is for checking & savings combined. Needless to say, put the excess into a high yeild savings account. It would probably earn more than what BOA is charging (but not so much as long as the Fed keeps the rates down)

  43. Yogambo says:

    Honestly, something is really whacked when they have that kind of a relationship and are having to pay for checking. I signed up, got $100 for doing so and am keeping it free by having one direct deposit a month, my paycheck. That check then flies outta there into e*Trade. So my relationship is tremendously *small* but free. How is that they pay? Seriously, switch banks. USAA holds our joint funds. ING and E*Trade any savings. As others have said, again, what kind of whacko would want to keep $5k in a 0% savings account. It really is shocking that anyone would do this, much less put up with it.

  44. wsycng says:

    Why not just close the checking account?

  45. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    It’s just perfectly sweet that you USAA people have that luscious alternative. I’m sooo happy for you I could pee my pants.

    Now what about the rest of us?

  46. DjDynasty says:

    Sounds like the OP is an advantage customer. The problem is BofA did not properly set her as an advantage customer waived via HELOC.

    I have a car loan w/ them, checking, savings, 2 credit cards, and IRA’s No problems so far, other than refusal to handle disputes on my behalf.

  47. Lyrai says:

    Man, I have -never- had a problem with BofA. It’s strange and foreign, I know.

  48. chuloallen says:

    This is the sort of problem i had with BoA- and i had 3 phone customer service people and 2 bank managers tell me that the “fee” for my “free” checking has been wavered for the next 3 years – until the next month – i gave up and moved on to a better bank ( that means: any other bank than BoA)

  49. lordargent says:

    GothamGal: This was the last straw for me. I’ve read so many BoA horror stories on here, but have been very lucky so far to not have any of my own with them

    I’ve had a savings account for 24 years without issue, and like you, I have read plenty of horror stories. I kept my accounts primarily because of the billpay system and access to ATMs.

    Well, for the first time in 24 years, I got dinged with a fee.

    Apparently, I’m not allowed to make more than 3 electronic transfers (including ATM withdrawals) from my savings account each month if the balance dips below $2500 on any day during that month. Otherwise I get charged $3 per transfer.

    I transferred about 5k to a CD at ING at the end of one month, knowing that a paycheck, a rent check, and a check from selling stock were about to be deposited into that account.

    I had about $1500 in that account for the first 5 days, then the stock grant and paycheck hit, bringing the account to around $25k. I made the six withdrawals/transfers that triggered the fee. (one of those being transferring 20k to a CD with ING).

    /My account used to be with Security Pacific, before BofA bought them out. I’ve used my account the same way for the past two and a half decades. So I assume something must have been changed in the account to cause me to get dinged with a fee now to access my own money.

    /in the process of closing that account

  50. lordargent says:

    Yogambo: I signed up, got $100 for doing so and am keeping it free by having one direct deposit a month, my paycheck.

    I’ll be doing the same thing you are.

    My current checking/savings accounts were supposed to be free, as long as they were linked together. Apparently, that’s not the case anymore.

    So I signed up for a checking account that has no fees if I make one direct deposit per month. And will probably keep a minimal amount of money in that (enough to pay bills and pull money from ATMs). And close the other two accounts.

  51. Comms says:

    @twophrasebark:

    oh snap

  52. bilge says:

    I have BoA MyAccess Checking–free with direct deposit. They’re currently running a promo which waives the direct deposit requirement. No need to pay.

  53. ClankBoomSteam says:

    @johnva: You’re lucky. Seriously. There are too many horror stories about BofA, including the one above, to believe that the company is not either in the business of taking advantage of its customers, or else astonishingly inept. Either way, it’s worth thinking about, isn’t it?

    In all honesty, I’M lucky that I haven’t had the problems other people have described about WaMu, since I switched to them — but I have every intention of moving elsewhere as soon as possible, simply based on what I know about others’ experiences. I wholeheartedly recommend you do the same with BofA. They may not have gotten around to screwing you and/or screwing up something in your account, but I went years and years with them before they did it to me. Get out before they do it to you, too.

  54. mizmoose says:

    I can’t believe nobody has suggested they call up and ask about their interest rate.

    Really, you people are slipping.

  55. lauy says:

    This usually happens if all your account are NOT on the same profile. It is especially common if you have account on different platforms (accounts opened in CA are one platform, WA/ID is another, accounts opened under “military bank” are another, and finally all other states are one). If you have accounts on different platforms, I don’t think they can be on the same profile, and the manual call each month is necessary. If you have opened all your accounts under the same profile, you should call and make sure to ask them if ALL your accounts are on one profile. If not, the associate you are speaking with needs to do a “customer combine”. This SHOULD solve the problem, emphasis on SHOULD.

  56. lordargent says:

    ClankBoomSteam: but I went years and years with them before they did it to me. Get out before they do it to you, too.

    My personal opinion is that all banks suck. So I have accounts with 4 different institutions.

    BofA for billpay and ATM access
    ING for CDs and money market
    E-Trade for stock
    and a local credit union

  57. arl84 says:

    The problem here is not really Bank of America’s banking policies per se, it’s just their notoriously misinformed reps and problematic IT systems. They need to make sure your profile is properly coded so that you do not receive the fees, but the reps that helped you either didn’t know that, or were too lazy to get that taken care of. Which sucks.

    Switch banks. hah.

  58. planet2334 says:

    Bank of America has been good with me and my credit card, it does sound like their computer system was a bad purchase tho…

  59. BlackFlag55 says:

    Bank of America … is there anything they haven’t effed up?

  60. friedduck says:

    Newsflash! They don’t want your business. Oblige them by leaving. Since they started running into the (Federal, I think) market-share limits they’re trying to cull less-profitable customers.

    The alternative is to consume a lot of their time for sport.

  61. Ilovemygeek says:

    We’ve never had this problem.

  62. sleze69 says:

    @HIV 2 Elway: I keep around $3k in my checking account. Why? Because if I keep over $2500, I get all my atm fees (both foreign and PNC) refunded. For me that can be anywhere from $4-$15. That is more than if I kept that money in any savings account.

    And I am sure there are other companies that refund SOME of the atm fees but so far, PNC has been too good of a bank to just walk away from.

  63. freejazz38 says:

    “Bank of America: Higher Fees”

    I STILL haven’t figured out why ANYONE banks there. Oh yea, they’re stupid. Now I know

  64. Wormfather says:

    @freejazz38: Learn to internet.