BoA's "Keep The Change" Program: Worth It?

What do you think of Bank of America’s “Keep The Change” program? How it works is every purchase you make with your BoA debit card you make gets rounded up to the next dollar. The difference between that and the actual price gets moved from your checking to your savings account. The idea is to help people save. Good idea, but there’s some potential downsides I can see:

1) It can unconsciously rationalize spending. Some part of your brain is going, “It’s ok, I’m saving.”

2) Personally, I only use my debit card to withdraw money from the ATM. I don’t want my account number getting stolen off some insecure store PIN pad, and paying only in cash encourages wiser spending.

3) If you’re going to do this program, at least once a month move the money from the savings to an online savings account. Interest rates at brick and mortar banks are like .0crap, online you can get upwards of 3% right now.

One neat thing is that for the first 3 months, they will match everything you save 100%. After that, 5% of your purchases up to $250.

The deal has been around for a while, we wrote about it in 2005, but a new smarmy ad campaign (the one that goes, “This is America. Do we let the sun just shine or the wind just blow? No, we put them to work.”) and recent events, made me think we could revisit it. What do you think? Is this a handy program, or the Diet Coke of savings plans? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Keep The Change [Bank of America] (Photo: atbartlett)

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  1. shortsboy7 says:

    I like the idea… I do the exact same thing, except with cash and real change and a jar. Ok so not exactly the same thing, but I did just buy an ipod with money that i didn’t miss at all while it sat in a change jar.

  2. iMe2 says:

    From a personal point of view, why would I want this service? I can decide just how much I can put in my saving account every month, thanks.

    From BoA’s point of view, this is evil genius. Under the ruse of “helping America save” it gets to increase the odds someone goes under their checking balance, thus initiating those fun $35 charges, while increasing its reserves, to boot. The odds per person are small, but for a behemoth like BoA it probably translates to millions.

    • Legal_Eagle_In_Training says:

      @iMe2: I actually use this, and it does create a nice little emergency fund that I have immediate access to. But if you overdraw your account by a charge or auto debit, the change transfer cancels out. It is never the actual reason that you are overdrawn.

      • iMe2 says:

        @Legal_Eagle_In_Training: Fair enough, but it will still draw down your checking account faster than otherwise, which will still lead to revenue-generation from overdraws on a large scale, I believe.

        • mzlinax3 says:

          @iMe2: It doesn’t draw down your checking account faster, it’s change. You make a purchase for 3.50 and .50 goes into your savings account. If you want to talk about a program that is similar to BofA’s KTC program, you should rip on Wachovia’s Ways2Save where they debit a FULL dollar from someones account everytime the debit card is used.

  3. chasnleo says:

    My friend had a real problem with this. The problem is that when it goes to take the “change” out of your account, which it does once a month, there was not enough in the account to cover it and the put insufficient fees on the account. Pretty sneaky!!

    • taking_this_easy says:

      @chasnleo: well, mine does that at the end of every day…

      and u can only get the extra ‘keep the change’ match at the anniversary of ur account…

      lets see, hypothetically u can get up to 99cents * 5% = 5 cents back on a purchase…. if i use my credit card, its like 1% back (using $2500 = 2500 points = $25 Gift Card)……so 1% of $5 is 5 cents…. use ur credit card after the 3 month period

    • mrjimbo19 says:

      @chasnleo:

      I find that odd considering it takes the money out at the same time the transaction clears. Are you maybe talking about an automatic savings withdrawal ?

    • MsAnthropy says:

      @chasnleo:

      It takes the ‘change’ out in a lump sum? Ugh! I’d seen the ads and thought it quite a nice idea (albeit an idea which involves earning nought-point-nought percent interest, but hey…), but taking it all out in one go (no doubt right before payday or at some other point when your balance is as low as it’s ever going to get) is just a recipe for NSF-fee disaster. I try to avoid keeping ‘surplus’ funds in my checking account because a) I’ll only spend them and b) they’re earning me sweet F.A. in there anyway, so I put them in my money market account where they rightly belong. I don’t much fancy the idea of constantly trying to figure out what my ‘change’ might come to, and whether there’s going to be enough left in the savings to cover it when BofA decides it’s ‘time’. Too much like hard work.

      So… no thanks, BofA.

      (Plus… this is just a wild guess, but I bet they only give you ‘change’ on debit transactions, rather than debit-card-as-credit card ones… right? Or not right? Seems like every debit-card-with-PIN transaction I make costs me money, so I always choose the ‘credit’ option anyway).

      • MsAnthropy says:

        @MsAnthropy:

        oops, not ‘… enough left in the savings’, obviously – I meant ‘… enough left in the account’. Duh.

      • The Boy Wonder says:

        @MsAnthropy: As a member for two years, all Keep the Change transactions are settled at the end of each day. So if you were to look on your statement, you’d see a daily transfer. Also, I NEVER used my debit card as a debit card. All transactions with the card (debit or credit) get rounded up and utilized in the keep the change program. After using it for two years, it ultimately seemed like a non issue. I didn’t see any lack of funds in my checking account, but similarly, didnt really see much savings.

    • AlexDitto says:

      @chasnleo: Yes, these are the sorts of problems I’d envision with a system like this. There’s no reason BoA would come up with it unless there’s something in it for them, like juicy $35 dollar overdraft fees.

      Besides, I just transfer over as much as possibly can to my savings account immediately, leaving only enough to get by on my debit card. That way, if someone does steal my card, the most it will have is a few hundred bucks. Plus, if I spend it, I know I won’t have enough money to pay for food! Nothing to motivate saving money like hunger pains.

      • JohnDeere says:

        @AlexDitto: ive been in this for over a year. they dont take the money out if your account doesnt have it. hell they even started declining my transactions when the funds were not available, i didnt even have to ask them to do this. i made a free and clear $160 from the first years match. but i dont use cash ever. if you dont take debit/credit you dont get my business.

    • deadandy says:

      @chasnleo: You are misinformed. The change comes out at the end of each day and the system will NOT take the change out if you don’t have the funds to cover it or if your balance is below $25 I believe.

      • MsAnthropy says:

        @deadandy:

        Oh. In that case, it’s not too bad an idea. Not a bad idea at all, in fact. I can’t really imagine the thought of all those cents racking up in the zero-interest savings is going to make anyone in their right mind get all giddy and go on a wild spending spree, although (as with the AmEx Blue Cash that is my preferred way to make a bit of money in the process of spending it) I suppose it might take the sting out of spending, to know that you’re getting a tiny amount back (from yourself) every time you buy something. It is quite a nice way to save at least a little bit of money pretty effortlessly, if you’re the sort of person who would never voluntarily put any of your hard-earned cash into a savings account.

    • WhirlyBird says:

      @chasnleo: Really? I’ve been using Keep The Change since it started, and on the few occasions that my balanced has dropped near zero, my online statement clearly stated that “keep the change transfer cancelled due to low balance”. In both those instances, the small amount that would have been transferred would not have given me a negative balance, either. They were apparently just playing it safe.

  4. mrjimbo19 says:

    I love ya Ben because my wife and I were just talking about this exact thing. While I agree that the interest rate is crap and the company itself is “teh devilzzz” at this point I think anything that makes america save is a good thing. I mean it would not take much effort to every 3 months take whatever is in that account transfer to something online and zero out the savings. Kind of the best of both worlds.

    Especially if you do what makes sense which is when you use the debit card you round up to the next whole dollar and forget all about it. It makes balancing the account when you download from the web a pain in the ass but it again helps people save

  5. malraux says:

    I dunno about all B&M banks, but my local bank is currently paying 5.01% APR on checking.

  6. RevRagnarok says:

    How about for the love of insert-your-deity-here people not use debit cards, like has been discussed here a million or so times? (No protection, annoying holds on your money, etc, etc, ad nauseum…)

  7. deadandy says:

    It works well for me, and I never turn down free money. For people who want ultra control over their savings account, they don’t sign up for it. For people who are horrid at savings, it gives them an extra hundred dollars every now and again that they would have otherwise squandered.

    My only beef is that is it stupidly easy to sign up for but really difficult to terminate (i.e. you can sign up online but can’t terminate without calling).

    • MyTQuinn says:

      @deadandy: This is good for people who are horrid at saving? By definition these same people are horrid as controlling spending – the most likely group to be spending beyond their limits, and incurring NSF fees. All this will give them is a pot to draw from when the NSF fess hit.

      • SybilDisobedience says:

        @MyTQuinn: People who are horrible at saving are not necessarily horrible at spending. My boyfriend, infuriatingly, refuses to open a savings account (for murky reasons I don’t quite understand), but pays his credit card bills in full every month, is very diligent about monitoring his balances and makes spending decisions accordingly, and has perfect credit. He just has a weird aversion to savings accounts.

  8. eelmonger says:

    It seems like using a credit card with cashback that is set up to deposit into a savings account is the better solution.

  9. fisherstudios says:

    I’m going to buy 1,000 1 cent candies! Then I will save 99 cents for each one, and BOA will have to match my contributions.

    An way to make 1000 dollars?

  10. MyPetFly says:

    Meh, it’s BofA.

    “Do we let the sun just shine or the wind just blow?”

    BofA doesn’t blow, it sucks.

  11. Is this good?

    I tink Not.

  12. Karl says:

    Before we start a mini-flamewar here, it’s possible that this program works differently for different BoA customers. You see, BoA is a giant monster formed by acquiring dozens of banks.

    (This is where I start to speculate)

    When these banks become acquired, it’s too complicated and costly to integrate their IT systems with the rest of BoA, so they remain seperate. (I believe this is also why you must select your state when logging in to their site, and back in the day, certain states only supported Quicken access, or none at all!)

    When Keep The Change was introduced, it probably had to be programmed into ALL of these systems, and most likely wound up being implemented differently across them.

    Call my cynical, but this seems like an excellent way for BoA to systematically lower your checking balance faster than normal (and thus generating NSF fees!) while passing it off as a “feature” to customers.

    If you listen to the ads carefully, they also mention that it’s “patent pending.” So, no other banks that I know of have implemented it quite the same, but some have something similar, like Wachovia’s Way2Save.

  13. Lcstyle says:

    I agree with Karl,

    If at the end of the year the program is favorable they will try to find a way to hit you with some kind of fee’s to make the net result positive on their end e.g. :

    here’s my store on BOA’s NSF illegal practices : [lcstyle.net]

  14. Juliekins says:

    I’m all for getting people to save more, but BoA is evil and I am positive they will find a way to do evil with KTC. Others have already pointed out the most obvious bit of deviousness: it lowers your account balance faster, thus exposing you to more fees.

    If they really were serious about getting people to save, they’d find a better way to incentivize saving that doesn’t simultaneously have the potential to screw the customer. Perhaps they could offer better rates for people to direct deposit a portion of their check into savings, or a $10 bonus, or something else along those lines.

    For myself and my husband, KTC offers no appeal whatsoever. We’re getting an awesome bang for our buck out of an Amex Blue Cash. I’d rather see people do KTC on their own, the old fashioned way–round purchases up and round deposits down in their check ledger. Then wah-lah, at the end of the month there’s a small surplus you can transfer over to your crazy-go-nuts good interest rate internet savings account.

    (“.0crap” made me laugh out loud, btw. Good work.)

    • SayAhh says:

      @Juliekins: American Express Costco TrueEarnings is better than Amex Blue Cash–even if you aren’t planning to visit Costco. Ever. (Unless you never buy gasoline or eat at a restaurant.)

  15. Lcstyle says:
  16. johnva says:

    re: 2): I agree that debit card security is a problem, and I have no real desire to use one everywhere either. But I disagree that paying only in cash encourages wiser spending. I think that that depends on your specific psychology about money, which may in turn depend on your experiences when first managing your own money. I know that I tend to spend more recklessly when I carry cash, because it seems like it’s not normal spending to me and I also don’t usually account for it in my record keeping like I do with credit cards. When I use cards I have a built-in record of exactly where all my money is going that I can use to refine my budget goals and check whether I’m meeting them.

  17. arcticJKL says:

    BofA trys to sell it like they are doing you a favor. Somewhat implying that they are giving you some money when in actuality they are automatically stealing some of your money from checking and putting it in savings.

    • mzlinax3 says:

      @arcticJKL: They are taking YOUR money from YOUR checking account and putting it into YOUR savings account. They are giving you money by putting it into a very small interest earning account and then matching the proceeds after a year. Bank of America isn’t stealing anything. The money is all circulating in your own accounts.

  18. cornbreadly says:

    I think the jury is still out on it. One telling factor is that every other bank hasn’t co-opted it as a feature for their consumer bank offerings. If it was wildly successful every other bank would be hot on BOA’s trail. Consumers may be wary of these types of gimmicks. Lose track of your “savings” once and the OD fee wipe out much of you you would have put away using the program.

  19. ShariC says:

    I think this is an interesting idea and the matching for the first 3 months is a bit of an incentive (as is the 5% of every $250 afterwards). Since most people have trouble saving anything, this may be a way of starting them on the right track. If they automatically get a few bucks in savings for a year, they might be more inclined to build upon that amount of their own accord later.

    From a psychological viewpoint, I think that this may have merit. People who have less than $100 in savings probably feel they will never be able to save a meaningful amount of money, so why bother? People who have more get a greater sense of the value of saving and the interest it can generate (though right now, that’s not much of an incentive, it will be once the economic situation improves). If saving their pennies builds up over time, they may start seeing saving not as a function of putting away large chunks of cash, but rather as something they can accomplish in small amounts.

  20. ratattak says:

    I started KTC 3 years ago, and LOVE IT.

    Basically, here’s how I do it:

    First 3 months, they mathc you $ for $ up to $250, so if you make 3 purchases of x.01/day, you are well over the $250.

    When I get my AT&T bill in, I will start paying off the bill $2.01 at a time. Add that to normal spending, and I always meet the $250 by 3months… I do not spend A LOT of money, but I use my debit card for everything… even a 35cent pack of gum (yes, you can still find gum that cheap!)

    Also, what’s great is even though each year they dont match the first 3 months dollar for dollar, they do allow (or just don’t notice) that you can open up a NEW checking/savings with KTC. This is my second year doing this, and i will be getting my match paid next week on the 18th.

    It requires a lot of patience to get the rewards, but if you are a college student like me with little money, an extra $250/yr is definitely worth it. (Hell, you can buy Ramon noodles one pack at a time, but fuck, don’t be a bad/annoying consumer and pull that!)

    • floraposte says:

      @ratattak: If I made three purchases a day for ninety days, I’d have to move into a cardboard box.

      On the other hand, judicious use of my Chase and Discover cards throughout the year can get me up into the four figures on free money most years. Rather that than $250.

  21. youbastid says:

    Here’s the deal. I’ve had it for 2 years now. The first year I got over $100 in matched “keep the change” funds deposited into my savings for free. The next year it was like $20 or something.

    I don’t save a ton of money with it. It averages like $12 a month. So for average people it is in no way a replacement for a savings plan. But I have a real savings plan, that I use with an online savings account.

    So for 20 free dollars a year, I let my fake BofA savings account grow and just transfer it over when I need that extra $30 for silly things that I can’t justify taking out of my checking acct.

    Bad idea? Good idea? Neither. It’s just kind of neutral, as long as you know what you’re doing with your money.

  22. WolfDemon says:

    I also thing it’s a good idea. I save every coin I receive. Over this last year I managed to save $200 worth of quarters, so it really does add up.

  23. synergy says:

    I prefer putting in one lump sum at a time so I know exactly how much I put in when. Then I can be sure about the correct savings added every month.

  24. Lo-fi says:

    I like the Wachovia version of this program, where they actually show bills raining from the sky in the commercials for it. “Wow, free money! Wait – it was already my money?”

    And what would it take to get to that $250 max? Figuring an average of $.50 transfer per transaction, you would only have to make 10,000 individual purchases per year. Most people would probably be looking at $25 or less, and I guarantee you would come out ahead with a cashback credit card and scheduled transfers to a high interest online checking account.

  25. ratattak says:

    Also, i forgot to add, but the KTC will not go through if it will cause an NSF. FOr example:

    I have 10 in my account.
    I make (4) 2.01 purchases in one day.
    At the end of the day, it will take out 8.04 out.
    However, since there is only 1.96 left in my account, instead of a transaction of “3.96 KTC” transfer going through, it will say “
    KTC cancelled due to low balance”
    (example screenshot here: [farm4.static.flickr.com]

    Also, even though you can not access the “matched” change until your anniversary date, you can transfer back any transferred change that came from YOUR spending.

  26. Con Seannery says:

    I hate the idea of this. I mean, if people couldn’t balance their checkbooks before, then wouldn’t taking money out of their checking mean they had more overdrafts?

  27. Neoprincess says:

    I like Wachovia’s version better. It’s a $1 moved over for atm card transactions and also when I do billpay online. That adds up alot faster.

  28. megsuma says:

    I would agree that it leads to overdrawing if you aren’t careful or don’t remember that your account has the “keep the change” going on. I’m a BoA customer, and while I’ve been somewhat against them and somewhat for them, I like this keep the change – its always fun to flip my **** for a second before realizing that my “missing” $$$ is actually in my savings – whew!

  29. junip says:

    I was surprised at how many people I know were under the impression that the “change” that BOA was transferring into your savings was free money, not your own money. I had to explain that it was actually your own money from your checking account.
    I think the program is a load of bull, and if people need to save, they should set up an auto transfer once a month, or take a look at their spending and see where they can cut back. I transfer 25% to 50% of my paycheck into my savings whenever my checking account starts looking pretty healthy. And my #1 rule is, never withdraw from the savings. (unless you’re putting the money somewhere that gets better interest, of course.)

  30. tahamaki says:

    Here’s why I dislike the program…

    I got stuck behind someone at a supermarket u-scan with one of those type accounts. They would ring up a bag of ramen noodles, then pay. A jar of baby food, then pay, another bag of noodles, then pay. These people did about 15 transactions for small items. Good grief.

  31. goodywitch says:

    I honestly couldn’t find the point in the keep the change program until you pointed out the matching part. Why isn’t THAT in the commercials? The keep the change part was condescending and idiotic to me (so, they’re moving MY MONEY to a new account, but I have no control over it?), but the matching part is nice. Stick it in a savings account, let it match, then move it to somewhere where I can make money on it.

    If I didn’t stick to cash for purchases, then I may have considered this. I’m actually now considering this. I’ll talk to my accountant family and see their take on it.

  32. Colage says:

    I don’t think that they’re aiming to get people to overdraft because of this – If you’re not already prone to overdrafting, I don’t think that this is going to make it worse.

    Really, I see it more as serving two functions:

    1. People consider going to BofA for their checking account because it “helps them save”

    2. It gets current BofA customers to use their debit cards more often, of which they get a 25-50 cent fee.

    If you overdraft, well, that’s gravy. But as was pointed out, they don’t exactly pay hefty interest on their savings accounts, and in reality, most people aren’t going to rack up that much in incentives anyway.

  33. Lucky225 says:

    This is just another way for Bank of Opportunists to “keep the change” in their pocket. If you spend $4.50 and $5 is taken out of checking, 0.50 put in “savings”, where you can’t touch it but 7 times a month per federal law, they got a hold of your money for a good period of time.

  34. Tallanvor says:

    Keep the change is a nice way to put aside a little extra money over time. You’re not going to save a ton, but over time it still adds up.

    Ben’s concerns aren’t really valid as far as I’m concerned:

    1) If the thought of putting up to $0.99 into a savings account per transaction is enough to rationalize spending, chances are you can already find rationalizations to spend without this.

    2) Yes, it’s possible for your information to be stolen and your account drained, but luckily the vast majority of card readers haven’t been tampered with. Plus, even though there aren’t the same liability rules that credit cards have, banks tend to cover theft by card skimmers because it’s in their best interest to have customers using debit cards.

    3) If the money stays in your checking account, it’s earning little to no interest anyway, so even in a BofA savings account, it’s already earning you more than it did before. It’s probably not a bad idea to move it to an account with a higher rate, but it’s not going to kill you if you don’t.

    The bottom line for me is that anything that helps Americans think more about saving money is a good thing.

  35. exkon says:

    This quite a nice program only if a you use your debit card a lot. When I first signed up for the program and at the end of the first year I got like $100 from BoA, but remember it’s only the FIRST 3 months that match 100%.

    After that it’s just a nice small piece of cash that BoA gives you.

    If people think this will lower their account faster, you need to manage your money better. By god, at most it might take $1.50 if you use the debit card enough. The only time I “force” a large KTC transfer is at the pump, I usually set it to $XX.01.

  36. mythago says:

    It’s a nice program for BofA, because they get you to hand over money. Instead of putting it into a decent interest-bearing account, you put it into a savings account with a below-inflation return rate, thus allowing BofA to get even richer lending out your money.

    Remember, they are not doing anything out of the kindness of their hearts, or to encourage people to save because saving is a nice thing. If this program didn’t generate profit for BofA, it wouldn’t exist.

  37. strwnderer says:

    It is a great program. Just go to a gas pump and do as many transactions as you can. Make sure to do both credit and debit to maximize the number of transactions.

    I got real good at pumping 3 cents worth of gas. This gets you up to the max reimbursement and is relatively hassle free.

    Some gas stations put a block on your card if you use it 3 times at the same station in one day, or something. The bank may also think your card has been stolen and shut it off and call you when it sees you have used your card 18 times in one day at a gas pump, but it is easy to get all of that sorted out and fixed.

  38. strwnderer says:

    Wachovia actually has a calculator on their website that shows how much you can save. Wachovia also puts the money into a high interest savings account for you that used to pay about 5 percent. I believe a comparable B of A Savings Account pays about 0.50 percent.

    I found the Wachovia program to be undesirable as it looked to be time consuming on an ongoing basis to “max out” their annual matching. The B of A Keep the Change program, however, had me at gas pumps many times a day for the first 3 months to get up to the max reimbursement. Another trick I used was on some grocery store self checkouts that used to have the “Amount OK” prompt to complete payment. If you selected “no” it asked you to “enter new amount” to which I would enter .01 and it would process my card for .01 and deduct that from the balance due. I would do that a few times as well.

    After the year had passed and B of A paid me the matching bonus, I went to close my accounts. I had zeroed out the checking account by writing a check out of it for the full balance, and the savings account had a few cents in it (leftover interest). I called them and told them to close my savings account; I did not care about obtaining the remaining funds. They said I had to go to a branch. I went to the branch. It was a Saturday. The branch told me they had to put in a request to close the account and it would process on Monday. The branch gave me the few cents left in the account and told me that I did not need to take any additional action. A few days later, I logged on to the website. My account had a negative balance because they had been charging me a daily fee for falling below the minimum account balance requirement in the savings account starting on the day that the branch gave me the few cents to zero out my account balance. I went back to the same branch. They said the computer automatically puts the fees on and the system that charges fees is not linked to the system that formally closes accounts. The fees were all removed.

    I will not conduct business with B of A at any time in the future unless there is a real good benefit for doing so. Their service was terrible and they tried to charge fees for no apparent reason. I was once charged a fee to use one of their ATMs, which they did remove. I also live near a state line, and if you crossed the state line, you could not conduct any transactions at the teller, only at the ATM because their system was not linked between the two states, or so they said.

    They were also no help when I tried to get them to help me file complaints against merchants for requiring ID for Visa Check Card use and told me I should be glad the merchant does that. When I emailed them a copy of the Visa Rules that explicitly stated “merchants may NOT ask for ID as part of their card acceptance procedures” they simply ignored me and eventually sent me a message saying they could not help me.

  39. shufflemoomin says:

    Point number 2 here is just plain ridiculous. You’re more likely to get your details stolen from using an ATM with a skimming device or similar than in store on a pinpad. It’s easier to set up hacking devices on an ATM than get in store to do it there.

  40. mnk007 says:

    I think the idea is dumb. I have money in my bank account currently. It’s not BoA but whenever I use my debit card where ever I may be. And I still get to keep my change. It’s just in the same bank account. So I spend it with other money… and since I am good at saving, I still save money.

    =] Works for me.

  41. PinkBox says:

    I use their Keep the Change program, and really like it.

    1. I’m not sure about this. The most you can save each time you use your card is 99cents. It is hard to rationalize a purchase over that.

    2. I very rarely carry enough cash on me to matter, and honestly, stopping at an ATM is a big hassle. ATM machines would be more likely to have a skimming device anyway, yes?

    Here is a tip though! I usually round off my sales if a tip is involved so that my amount bills to $X.01.

    I’ve saved up a rather generous amount over the couple of years I’ve used this program. I’m leery of BoA in general, but this is one of the things I do like about them.

  42. RandomHookup says:

    I noticed the ad for this today when I went into my online BoA account. I recall instantly saying…”gimmick”.

    Do it for the first 3 months to pocket a little extra coin, but after that use it only if you use your debit as your primary way of paying for things. I don’t think they had the 5% match when I signed up. Without a match, it is absolutely worthless…just forced savings which you could do with a monthly auto transfer.

  43. BPorche says:

    Some of you are a dufus!

    Most of your comments about money is hiliarious. It goes to show how incompetent many of us are when it comes to finances and reading the fine print.

    I do use BOA “America Saves” and love it; it provides me the opportunity to have other options to save with ease. It is not the only thing I use, I also use ING automatic savings that would withdraw whatever amount I want every 2 weeks. To add to the bonus, I also use automatic withdrawal that puts money in mutual funds as well. Talk about sitting back and relaxing at the end of the day knowing I saved as much as possible.

    For some of you who say, “I do not like BOA America Saves.” Meh, looks like I one up you on savings.

    My point is, use anything that comes to your advantage.

  44. Half Beast says:

    The program by itself doesn’t do a whole lot beyond the 100% matching period. I hedge this personally by matching my monthly savings manually out of my standard checking.
    As I stated in a prior article about the programs: A little dedication + using this program for 2 years + personal matching = shiny new PS3 without impacting my budget at all.

  45. duffbeer703 says:

    Sometimes I read Consumerist stories, scratch my head and say “WTF”.

    The “Keep the Change” program is like throwing your change into a jar at the end of the day. You’re not going to get rich, but it’s a nice tool to save money that would otherwise be spent.

    To the people posting comments about BoA is ripping you off and how you must transfer to an online account ASAP — get over yourself. If you had 50 transactions a month and saved $50, an online savings account would earn you a whopping $1.50/year.

    • mythago says:

      @duffbeer703: If you don’t care about that $1.50, please send it to me. I’ll be happy to take it off your hands. I promise I will put it to better use than BofA will.

      @strwnderer: gas stations and banks generally put a hold on your card for an amount larger than the transaction. Unless you have a lot of money so you don’t even notice holds, it is a BAD IDEA to use gas stations as a savings tool.

      Really, how hard is it to just keep a change jar and empty it once a week or so?

  46. Etoiles says:

    1) It can unconsciously rationalize spending. Some part of your brain is going, “It’s ok, I’m saving.”

    This is like saying, “My credit card has a $17,000 limit, so it’s okay for me to spend $17,000 at the mall.” The stupidest and more irresponsible account holders are likely to do this. I’ve been on a budget and on BoA’s program for a few years… don’t see this problem. (It does, though, sometimes make me choose my debit card over my Mastercard — but in those situations, I’m likely to do that anyway.)

    2) Personally, I only use my debit card to withdraw money from the ATM. I don’t want my account number getting stolen off some insecure store PIN pad, and paying only in cash encourages wiser spending.

    Maybe for YOU paying in cash encourages wiser spending. For me, I have avoided carrying cash for years because I can keep a running bank account tally in my head — and online — and because I only spend when I have to. I’m not big on impulse buys. Earning less than your student loan payment, for half a year, will do that to you. You pay cash at the grocery store, good for you. I don’t.

    But the real point is: the Keep the Change program works for ALL transactions to that account, that are perceived as “on the card” transactions. So for example, I have three recurring monthly subscriptions that bill to that account: $12.99, $14.95, and $16.95. That $0.11 monthly ends up in the Keep the Change program.

    3) If you’re going to do this program, at least once a month move the money from the savings to an online savings account. Interest rates at brick and mortar banks are like .0crap, online you can get upwards of 3% right now.

    Well, interest rates are a whole other kettle of fish. I’ve had my current savings account since 1989, and it’s been linked to my current checking account since 1995, so what I do with those may or may not be the same as what someone else would do.

    The upshot is, the program is just like a piggy bank — and I have one of those, too. In December I usually find about $50 in there (though I expect a lot more now that I no longer need quarters for laundry or parking and can put them in, too). So if in December I find a nice bonus $50 in my savings account… who’s it hurting?

  47. Besides the security issue with debit cards, think of all the Consumerist stories of fast food places accidentally keying in the wrong value? Instead of a $13.51 meal they key in $1351. While those things can be fixed, think of all the insufficient funds fees and headaches you have to deal with just because of some accident.

  48. femmeknitzi says:

    I love this program. It should in no way replace regular monthly savings, but it adds nearly $20 a month to my savings account without me having to think about it or rationalize it.

    You said: 1) It can unconsciously rationalize spending. Some part of your brain is going, “It’s ok, I’m saving.”

    I can only see this happening if someone is using it as his or her only savings method. Just as it seems so small and insignificant to be worth it, it’s also too small to be much of a rationalization. Few people are going to see $4.50 saved at the end of the week and think, “Sweet, I can go buy a Prada purse!”

    You said: 2) Personally, I only use my debit card to withdraw money from the ATM.

    Then it’s not for you. I use my debit card for EVERYTHING. We’re talking at least 1-2 transactions per day. At the end of the month, it really adds up.

    Also, paying in cash is not right for everyone. It’s a great piece of advice for people who’ve never tried it but I know from experience that cash burns a hole in my pocket. If I’ve got 5 bucks on me, I’ll end up at the vending machine or the coffee shop. If I have to swipe my card, I won’t bother. So the advice that cash is more frugal is good for some people, but its not universal.

    You said: 3) If you’re going to do this program, at least once a month move the money from the savings to an online savings account.

    Agreed. I do this and it works great! However, remember that those online banks are not the most liquid savings option. It takes 2-3 days to get my money from ING, so I maintain a bank savings account for immediate emergencies and true overdraft protection.

    At the end of my first year, because of the 100% match, I received nearly $75 in interest. $75 handed to me free and clear.

    If you’re a customer of BoA, why wouldn’t you do this? It’s just one more way to make savings automatic.

    • bjcolby15 says:

      I’ve used it for the past two years. In the first year, I got back about $35, but this year I think I got $18 back.

      I think for my account, I have to keep $2500 in there in order to avoid the $3 per transaction fee, but if you’ve saved enough change, that can easily cover the fees.

      I think of it as the mini 401(k) of savings plans, without the 10% penalty.

  49. lifestar says:

    I don’t know what the experience has been for others, but I’m thinking about closing the savings account as I realized a few months ago that unless you have one of the following, BoA slaps a $3.00 service fee onto the savings account, which neutralizes the savings I generate from using the debit card. In order to not get hit by fees, you need to have the following, according to the CS person I spoke with.

    1. Automatic savings plan where you withdraw at least $25/month from your checking into your savings.

    2. Have a savings’ balance of at least $300.

    I’ve been hesitant to close the account because of all the horror stories I’ve heard about BoA on here. If you can’t even call them them to check on your APR without fear of them shutting down your accounts, what will happen if one tries to close an account for real?!

    • JohnDeere says:

      @lifestar: i have my mortgage with boa also. i dont have any fees at all for my savings. i can do unlimited transfers for free also. without worrying about breaking the law. i have had nothing but great service with this bank for the last 8 years.

  50. lmarconi says:

    Keep the Change is only useful if A) you spend a lot using your debit card and B) you are unable to put aside money as a savings on your own accord.
    I think most people could (or should learn to) be able to budget a savings on their own. Programs like this do nothing to encourage that skillset, in fact, they encourage people to spend more money via their debit card.
    I also object to the gimmicky wording. People are supposed to feel like they’ve “earned” or “saved” a certain amount of money when really its just money you already had in your account.
    I’d rather be old fashioned and put away a little bit each month into a high interest online account.

  51. narf says:

    This is bad for one key reason … one would have to have a BofA account to begin with. Enough of us here have seen the horror stories to know why I say that.

  52. hollywood2590 says:

    Wait…..let me get this straight. For the first 3 months they match whatever I put in right?

    So if I were to buy a pack of gum for $.25, They would move .75 to my savings account and then add .75 to it?

    So I could theoretically get $1.50 and a pack of gum for a dollar? Is there a limit on this or is this the best scam ever. I mean I could really go for a return on investment that high.

  53. Skankingmike says:

    don’t’ have BOA never will.. but i do have Wachovia and they have a similar program where every time you pay a bill online or use your debit card, you automatically have 1 dollar taken out of your account and put into a savings account. if you keep that money in there they will match it at years end up to 300 dollars. So right now i have about 400 bucks in there I’m gonna keep it until they match it make 300 bucks and then use that money to buy stock.

    If you live paycheck to paycheck then this wouldn’t work for you, but if you’re fine in your finances than this system actually puts aside a nice nest egg, I may even use this money for Christmas shopping instead.

  54. Nic715 says:

    In the first 3 months when they were matching 100% of my change, I’d purposely make totals roll to .01 (at the gas station, restuarant/bar tips, etc. never by making individual transactions, I can’t imagine what I would do if I were waiting in line behind someone at a store who was doing that!) but now that those 3 months are over and I recieved my matched amount deposit from BOA, I try to avoid the .99 deposit as much as possible…I’d rather put that exta .99 worth of gas in my car than into my savings….

  55. mike says:

    I can’t believe BoA is trying to patent this. Wachovia is trying to patent their program too.

    Just want everyone to know that dumping change into a tip jar is patent pending. I’ve be filing papers to have this patented. If you are doing this, I’ll be suing you!

  56. Javert says:

    Well for the first 3 months…everyday I would stop on the way home and buy 1.01 in gas (this is the period in which they match your change 100%). I was usually stopping anyways for a caffine fix and with the price of gas, this took a few nano seconds to achieve.

    I think I made $180. Once the 3 months was up, I never used it again. I am not a fan of check cards because if you have it stolen, you are in a far worse world of hurt than a simple credit card. Plus, with the cost of flying now, my airline mile card has become valuable again.

  57. EricLecarde says:

    Its a good idea, but my idea is better. Use cash. Get change back. Put said change in jar. Leave jar in room. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

    That said, I also have a jar in my living room that acts as a collection plate for when people come to my house. Its completely sealed off and locked down to coffee table. Loose change for all!!

  58. K-T says:

    I put money into savings monthly anyways, but i do use this and i like it. I am careful about never having a low balance in my checking, so i never worry about overdrafts, and over the last two years it has helped my stash an extra 200 each year. in the big picture, that 400 is a nice chunck of change. As far as low interest goes, i keep a balance in my savings at BoA, and when i reach 1000 over that balance, i transfer it to my ING account. best of both worlds really.

  59. mugsywwiii says:

    Those commercials are a terribly awkward attempt to apply the current energy issues to banking. They make me cringe.

  60. jrobie says:

    Yeah the commercials drive me crazy. “YES! YES Kiefer, we DO let the sun just shine and the wind just blow, that’s the damn problem!”

    I do use Wachovia’s version of the same thing, they promise 15% on top of what I put in at the end of the first year. Seemed a pretty good idea.

  61. Crymson_77 says:

    We have been using this for quite a while and it has been very beneficial. Saw our savings grow several hundred dollars in a matter of months. (And we NEVER use the card to buy things as a debit card, credit only (took a while to get that into the wife’s head))

  62. Whitey Fisk says:

    “This is America. Do we let the sun just shine or the wind just blow? No, we put them to work as long as it doesn’t ruin Ted Kennedy’s view.”

  63. the tallfish says:

    As long as it’s not your primary form of savings, I think it’s great. I see it as sort of similar to the snowball debt repayment notion. You’re just throwing a little extra on the pile, and you don’t even have to think about it. After all, this is America, and we don’t want to have to make too much of an effort.

  64. el_smurfo says:

    Just set up an automatic transfer from checking to savings yourself. On the plus side, if you don’t have it in your checking account, you can’t spend it.

  65. >>What do you think? Is this a handy program, or the Diet Coke of savings plans? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

    Can someone please explain the “Diet Coke” reference to me? It’s eluding me….

    Thanks

  66. it was good when BoA matched whatever you contributed (getting gas in $XX.01 meant a free dollar every time I filled up…)

  67. DjDynasty says:

    I have BofA w/ Keep the change. I like it, I balance my checkbook that way anyway, So that I would always have a reserve in my checking account. Instead the reserve is being moved to my money market account. My overdrafts however are pulled out of a linked credit card (Card has 1000 credit line, ONLY used for overdrafts, physical card in safety deposit box). As the credit card charges interest by the day (normally never overdrafted longer than 3 days w/ weekend) Where as a link from savings costs $10 per transfer. Regular NSF is $25 for the first one, $35 for each additional fee. Know your fee’s and understand them and you will be fine!

  68. lajoan says:

    This program has worked really really well for me. I was not saving AT ALL just over a year ago. This got me started. It just got me in the habit of saving. Now, I’m putting about $200 per month into saving (from Keep the Change and other deposits). I know it isn’t much, but it is better than before. I’m sure there are better ways to go about it and ways to make more interest, but it worked great for me. I have yet to find anything evil about it.

  69. FrankenPC says:

    I wouldn’t trust BofA to do the proper calculations on their end. This whole idea is fraught with potential screwups.

  70. wiretapstudios says:

    I have used this for the last year on and off. It doesn’t do much really, it’s kind of annoying. The only upside was at the end of last month, after a year, they matched my savings, so they basically gave me 175$.

    Also, this cannot overdraw your account. If it’s not in there, they don’t move it.

  71. rainbowsandkittens says:

    My husband and I love it. We are debit card junkies and I love having all of my BoA accounts tied together where I can see everything with one log in.

    After a quick census, I can report that keep the change transferred $42 from various purchases to our savings last month alone, not counting my regular auto-drafted saving contributions. We’ve been enrolled since 2006, and I’d venture to guess that the change has added up rather significantly over that period of time.

    On here, I’ve read some pretty crazy BoA stories before, but this is one program that isn’t evil or trying to be sneaky.

  72. xkevin108x says:

    I bank with Wachovia. They have a comparable program called Way2Save. Any transaction you make with your debit card and every time you pay a bill online, $1 is put into your Way2Save account.

    Honestly, with any of these “savings” programs, you could do things yourself. As an existing customer, it’s a nice feature, but it would never convince me to open an account elsewhere.

  73. satoru says:

    Personally I think this is just another way for BoA to increase the probability of you incurring an NSF or overdraft on your account. This would happen to people who are not constantly checking their online balance on a nearly daily basis, which is honestly most people (the demographic here is skewed to the opposite way via a self-selection bias).

    If we take your typical BoA customer who can barely manipulate a calculator, then at any given point in time you really have no idea how much money you might have. Each transaction you do, can take as much as 99 cents out. Thus over 20 transactions you can mis-calculate your balance by up to $20. This might not seem much, but compound this over say a married couple with a joint account. Suddenly you could be short $100 quickly if you’re not paying attention. If you write a check assuming that $100 is in there, then the NSF and fees start kicking in like gang busters.

    Again I doubt many here would fall into this trap, but I do think that this kind of thing would happen very often to others not as savvy.

  74. marydc says:

    I think it is worth it because it allows you to save without thinking about it, and the free money from matching, though it may not be much, is still free money. I’ve been enrolled in it for a couple years now. After the first year, I got $42 from the match, the second I got $6. I have another higher interest rate saving account, so I don’t pay much attention to my savings at BofA, but when Keep the Change puts the account over a certain amount, I apply that to my credit card or my student loan. So I’m actually using the program as a way to trick myself into making extra debt payments. It’s like having a physical change jar for people who don’t use cash very much.

    As for all the commenters saying it’s a scam to make people overdraw their accounts, I think that’s pretty unlikely. First of all, if you have so little money that the missing change is going to make you overdraw, you probably don’t/can’t save any money and you wouldn’t enroll in this program. Second, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t pay attention to their account balance, I’m betting you also aren’t the type to go into your online banking and sign up for this.

  75. Tankueray says:

    I use it. It takes the money out after every qualifying transaction, usually at the end of the day. It does not work with automatic debits or online purchases, but it does work when you use your debit card as a credit card when you physically use it. But I only buy gas and a few other things a month with it, so in two years I’ve only gotten around $100. I have automatic transfer every month to ING and Sharebuilder, so my BoA savings account is just there because it’s free. Unfortunately, my checking account has a higher interest rate.

  76. marydc says:

    @lifestar Yes, I got hit with the $3 fee one time (the first time my savings dropped below $300) and I was pretty pissed about it. But it’s easily fixed by setting up the automatic transfer. If you need that $25 in the checking, just transfer it back once it hits savings and you’re good to go. You could even automate that, I’m sure.

  77. rickh925 says:

    The first time I saw this I thought of a friend at a regional bank. His job is to think up fees for the bank. I wonder if this drives revenue to BoA through ATM card usage fees charged to the retailer. Do retailers get charged a percentage when the customer uses an ATM card like they do with credit cards?

  78. webdoyenne says:

    Been using it forever. No problems. Keep $300 in my BoA savings account. Whenever the Keep the Change money hits $25, I transfer that amount over to ING. I am one of those people who dislikes carrying a lot of cash, so I use the debit/credit card almost exclusively.

  79. It’s a great way to make some money off of something you already do, which is like credit-card rewards. But if you’re relying on stuff like this exclusively as your “savings” then you’re in trouble. I recently ran a comparison of Keep the Change vs. Credit Card Rewards and I was surprised at hoe decent KTC is. The rewards beat it out every time though if you can be responsible enough to pay it off in full every time.

  80. larkknot says:

    I’ve got a similar program with Wachovia – it just transfers a dollar at the end of the day for each transaction that clears that day. This can be a bit rough on Mondays when the transactions I made after 5 on Friday all hit at once, but it hasn’t caused me any overdraft fees – saved me from a few in fact when I had the money in the savings account to transfer back into the checking. I have a shockingly high interest rate on the account as well.

  81. schiff says:

    I have used the program for a couple of years now. BOA matches a percentage of the savings, and it has not “rationalized” spending. In fact the only impact it has on my spending habits is that when I purchase gas I no longer round to the dollar. I think its a great program.

  82. risingdragon145 says:

    Okay I have read most of these comments and it seems that some people have their facts straight and some don’t. I use to work for Bank of America at customer service so I have handled many people who call in about their accounts. Now with regards to KTC it is a great program if you learn how to maximize it.

    No the program will not overdraft your account like has been said earlier the transfer is canceled. Also it is my professional experience that the people who complain about the program are the same irresponsible people who overdraw there account every other week because they keep track of their accounts. This isn’t the banks fault they can’t tell you how to spend your money, it is your responsibility to make sure the money is there from start to finish (I know the national mentality on responsibility is to not assume it when you should). So if your overdrawing your account then it is your fault don’t blame the bank because they asses fees that you agreed to when you opened the account; ignorance of the rules is not an excuse this is the information and that info is available if you want to make the small effort to get it.

    Normally with the KTC the first 3 months the bank will match 100% of you KTC and after that it is 5%. What allot of people don’t realize is that certain affinity groups will increase that. My debit card is affinityed for the national small business association and my KTC match is 15% not 5%. so you can get allot more bang for your buck if you do a little research.

  83. Monchichi says:

    I started this program from the first day it was offered. It is perfect for me and my family. We live paycheck to paycheck and usually never have anything left to put in savings. We don’t use check and have no credit cards or credit card debt. Our only debt we have is out house and it has never been refinanced or messed with and we owe under 50,000 on it. I love how BoA takes just a little bit from each purchase and puts it into our savings. The bonuses are nice too. I have never had any issues with insufficient funds. This is a great program and I would recommend it to all my friends.

  84. ras_d says:

    This is scam…its my own FUCKING MONEY! how can I be saving “more” when its already mine! you arent giving me anything more…aarrgh

  85. JoshReflek says:

    When i was with Bofa they pitched this, so naturally it took them several minutes to accurately answer if this program can trigger the NSF fees, and yes it does.

    “Keep the Change” is another way of scamming you into overspending and getting raped in NSF fees.

    Do not listen to posters telling you otherwise.

  86. PiNPOiNT says:

    Something to be aware of…. if you transfer money from your savings account back into your checking account, more then 3 times in a month, they start dinging you with service charges upwards of $4 plus