My Formerly Free BofA Account Now Costs $9 A Month For No Reason

Last month we wrote about Bank of America’s bid to coax customers to stop bothering tellers in person by offering free checking to those who stay away from branches and don’t request paper statements.

Eric always banked that way anyway and enjoyed free services, but was stunned to find an unexplained $9 maintenance fee on his account anyway.

He writes:

I was perplexed when I recently reviewed my statement (online) and discovered that Bank of America charged me a $9 monthly maintenance fee on what used to be a free checking account. Googling for solutions, I found your article:

…the thing is, my account has been paperless for years, and I can’t even remember the last time I used a human teller there. So apparently they’re charging this fee even if you only use online banking and ATMs. I’m switching banks ASAP.

The good news for BofA is Eric makes one fewer customer it will have to deal with.

Previously: We’ll Give You Free Checking If We Don’t Have To See Your Stupid Face

Comments

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  1. Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

    Credit. Union.

    That is all.

  2. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Is it wrong for me to ask if he even called BofA or visited a branch to find out what it was for before switching banks? I mean, it could be a simple mistake like someone keyed in a number wrong and it charged a fee to his account instead of another one.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence”?

      I’d agree.. but this is Bank of America we’re talking about. Assuming malice seems like a good place to start, IMHO.

      • c!tizen says:

        not to mention that calling the bank would be considered “bothering a teller” and he would be subsequently charged for “in-banking service”.

      • TouchMyMonkey says:

        Except where it is apparent that the company has maliciously hired incompetents. You won’t call customer service if it’s a PITA. You might just eat the nine bucks.

    • c!tizen says:

      This is true, you have a good point. If BofA can mistakenly forclose on the wrong house… more than once, then they can certainly charge the wrong account a maintenance fee. Call the bank buddy.

    • FrugalFreak says:

      No, not wrong to ask. Better yet make 3 posts saying the same thing. maybe they can call the bank three times. My guess is any bank that throws it on there regardless mistake or not without informing the customer deserves to lose one.

    • Spinfusor says:

      Bank of America used to do this to me all of the time. I’d go in, complain, and they’d take the charges off. Two months later, I was getting charged again (my account was supposed to remain free as long as I had Keep the Change).

      I moved to PNC (much better!).

  3. JMB says:

    Good thing he called Bank of America to find out why they were charging him.

    Oh wait, he didn’t? He just wrote an email to The Consumerist?

    Doesn’t seem like the most efficient method of getting a refund, but to each his own, I guess.

    • WorkingDad says:

      +1. Is the OP’s name Andrew Breitbart?

      • Link_Shinigami says:

        Or, he did research. Found what it was. Realized he is being charged for something he doesn’t have/use and said screw it and cut his losses without wasting a headache on trying to get it resolved.

        Don’t blame the OP when he evidently did research into the problem and decided to move on. His loyalty was destroyed when they did this and he made the executive decision to just leave.

        Usually that’s what happens when a brand screws you, except he didn’t even want to let them try and fix it because he probably knows they’ll just do it again, after 10hours of phone calls to fix it for a month.

        • Conformist138 says:

          He can demand his $9 back when he walks into a branch to personally make a banker close his accounts XD

        • coren says:

          He can’t know that the fee he was charged was for that specific thing – and even if it was, it’s easily reversed, as he doesn’t use the service he’s being charged for.

  4. Beeker26 says:

    Or he could maybe call them and find out why there is a fee. If it’s not supposed to be there they’ll remove it. If it is supposed to be there then he’ll find out why.

    I know my free checking account is dependent upon having direct deposit. Maybe the OP’s is too and he no longer does DD.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Mine was dependent on me being employed by BofA, same as my Wachovia account when i worked for MBNA. Once I was laid off, the free account went away.

    • ahleeeshah says:

      Mine requires Direct Deposit as well. My old company had difficulty making payroll for a few pay periods and issued live checks to avoid everything coming out at once. I ended up with a fee that month.

  5. Extended-Warranty says:

    Thanks again CARD act

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      What part of the CARD Act mandated Banks charge us fees up the ass? If that provision exists, it wouldn’t make any sense to include it since they’ve been doing that since…. well, the existance of banks.

      • Murph1908 says:

        Somtimes, Loias, your comments are insightful.

        Sometimes, like this time, they are baffling.

        The CARD act eliminated many fees the banks could charge. So, to maintain revenue, they are charging different fees. Quite simple.

        So in essence, people like the OP are getting hit with fees they hadn’t before because the CARD act is preventing fees to people who are the worst with their finances.

        No more default rate hikes for people who don’t pay their bills on time. No more overdraft charges for people who can’t keep money in their accounts. So good consumers get charged $9 a month.

  6. PencilSharp says:

    Sounds to me like OP has been on a slow burn over what he has read about BofA over the past few years, and decided to bail on them at the first excuse… which is always the correct answer, anyway.

    In midst of switching to USAA meself at the moment…

    • tbax929 says:

      USAA for the win. Screw credit unions. I’ve not been impressed with the few I’ve used. I’ve never been as happy with a bank as I am with USAA.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      I think BofA could charge me a $1 fee right now and I would close my account. So far, I just haven’t got around to opening an account with USAA or Schwab. The fee would push me into action.

  7. rpm773 says:

    Call the bank. In the past, BofA has hit me with what it thinks are legitimate charges, and I’ve had them reversed.

  8. the_daisy says:

    Agree with the others: Did the reader even call B of A to find out the details on the fee? It would have made for better reading. If any readers believe free checking is here to stay with regulatory reform in the financial arena, they are misguided and misled.

  9. jdmba says:

    For those who say credit union … my credit union sent out a fee structure a few months ago with no additional information. Since they give quarterly statements, they waited until the beginning of the next quarter to start levying $2 inactivity fee (newly added; no transactions for 6 months) which they managed to do 3 times (still within the unmailed statement) and on the third time, managed to take me below their minimum balance, which then cost $5.

    Pretty d–kish to design this to hit maximum penalty through use of the quarterly statement system. Very ‘big bank’ of them.

    • goodfellow_puck says:

      My credit union did the same thing. I paid over the amount of my car loan when I paid it off, and they put the remainder my savings account. They then drained the account with “inactivity” fees for a few months and sent me my statement only AFTER the money was gone. Inactivity on a savings account–THANKS GUYS.

  10. goodfellow_puck says:

    Regular accounts are free with DD or a certain amount consistently in your account (I don’t remember the number…maybe a grand?). Failing that, they charge you $12. They’ve also had the “free checking if we don’t have to see you” for yeeeears, but it was called a “student account” and you could still get paper statements with it.

    $9 is the charge you get if you have their “new” free “we don’t see you and you don’t get paper statements” eBanking and you request a statement, go into a branch, or have someone deposit something for you at a branch, etc. I’m thinking someone screwed up and a quick call should clear things up.

  11. c!tizen says:

    They have to charge you a $9.00 fee because they have to check your account to make sure the $9.00 fee was applied, which counts as maintenance. This is business 101, nothing to see here, move along.

  12. NarcolepticGirl says:

    Wow. what a great complete article.

    Did he call the bank? What did they say?

  13. smo0 says:

    Doesn’t matter why it was charged… sorry, as a consumer with a bank account – I know what’s up, if I see a fee there for any reason, something happened that was not supposed to.

    This OP probably saw all of the BofA bashing and decided not to chance wasting hours on the phone with reps who probably couldn’t or wouldn’t give him a straight answer….

    You know the answer, I know the answer, HE knows the answer – he did the right thing… if he wants to argue or get the money back AFTER the fact (which I suspect he might) it’ll probably reinforce the idea that “banking with these SOB’s isn’t worth the time.”

    • Shivv says:

      Hours on the phone? I used to have a BofA savings account that, once a year, would get hit with a maintenance fee because Keep the Change was not attached to the account when it was opened (as it should have been). The two times it happened it took me maybe 3 minutes in the branch to resolve. I ended up closing the account anyway because the interest rate sucked, but getting that fee removed was pretty damn easy.

  14. NarcolepticGirl says:

    I banked with BofA for years and they were hands down my favorite. Apparently I’m nuts.

    I’m currently with a credit union associated with my work… and man…. It’s like banking in 1990 or something. Online banking – yes – but not as fast as BofA’s and also not as streamlined.
    The number of ATMs and branches is limited to the metro area, and they don’t refund ATM fees from other banks.
    A lot of things you need to go physically into the branch for that BofA could handle doing online or at the ATM.
    I loved how fast BofA’s ATM deposits hit… and the fact that I didn’t need to deal with envelopes.
    They also removed $300 worth of overdraft fees for me because of my own mistake.

    I’m not familiar with any of there other products other than checking and saving – so I can’t comment on that.

    Also, I belonged to another Credit Union a few years ago whose customer service was one of the worst I’ve ever experienced. And they had fees. And they just plain sucked.

    So not all Credit Unions are the best thing in the world.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I’m in the same situation. I have a regular checking account with a major bank and an account with a local credit union. The credit union is great for low interest loans but it’s very frustrating for a checking account — there are only three branches, terrible hours, primitive online presence, etc.

      The interest rates are so low, I really don’t understand how they do it.

    • Etoiles says:

      I have a BoA account and so far they’ve done right by me. It was a BayBank account when I opened it in 1994 so now after all of the mergers and acquisitions it’s got a million leading zeroes, but my local branch has impeccable service, there’s an ATM for them in my office building, their online banking is solid, and I can access them everywhere I’m likely to be in a given year — which is Boston, Providence, New York, DC, Raleigh, Winston-Salem, and Wilmington (NC). And that’s just family; it’s also handy to be able to access them when traveling. Since I don’t have any fees or whatever I just roll with it until they personally do me wrong.

      I’m not saying I’d get a mortgage from them (if we ever are in a position to buy property, I won’t; I’d probably start with BB&T, where we have our joint account) but honestly for regular checking they’ve been pretty good to me since they took over Fleet.

    • tjthayer says:

      Not, you’re not nuts. I’ve also banked with BoA for many years. I wouldn’t waste my time anywhere else – they’ve treated me well.

      Was with Wachovia previously – my experience was not so pleasant there.

      Also have an account with a credit union (Delta), but not impressed and very inconvenient.

    • bjcolby15 says:

      Put me in as another satisfied customer at BofA.

      I joined four years ago because the ATM at my work was with BofA and I got sick and tired of getting whacked with foreign ATM fees from my old bank. I do all my banking online and the transfers and deposits are much easier – and I have plenty of branches to do withdrawals and deposits. I had to deposit a big check a couple of weeks ago, and I did it through the ATM machine. The money was ready the next day.

      The $9 (I think) can be waived if you have one direct deposit per month and/or have $1500 or more.

    • bjcolby15 says:

      Add another to the list of crazy, yet satisfied, BofA customers.

      Everything I do is from my computer or the ATM machine – deposits, withdrawals, and such. I love it. And I have direct deposit and keep a minimum balance, so they waive the $9 fee.

  15. Dallas_shopper says:

    I will definitely be checking my statement.

    If I see that fee on there, I’m going to the branch to bitch. Next point of call: 800 number.

    No joy? Switch banks.

  16. MoreFunThanToast says:

    I’ve bad BoA free checking account for many years, and recently they started to charge $9/month maintenance fee too. But I actually received a letter prior to the change stating that the fee will be waived if I have $1500 min balance OR have direct deposit every month.

    My company is too cheap to pay us through direct deposit and I am too poor to maintain a $1500 balance. FML.

    • evnmorlo says:

      Unless your company pays you in cash DD should lower their costs

      • MoreFunThanToast says:

        They hand me a check every month through payroll. I asked about DD and they said they don’t do it because they charge a fee.

      • Marshmelly says:

        really? My company doesn’t have DD either (I don’t think it has to do with cost, just that we’re a small group so it never really happened)…will definitely let them know about that at some point, because DD would be very nice.

    • christador says:

      They probably bank at BOA as well–our credit union doesn’t charge fees for direct deposit.

  17. Blious says:

    I will be changing banks if this is implemented across the board

  18. greatgoogly says:

    I have a BOA “My Access” account that I had opened a year or two ago when they were offering $75 to open an account. Was supposed to be completely free checking. I just plunked $1000 into it and haven’t touched it. I figured the one advantage of BOA is they have ATM’s all over the place. My main bank (a local one) has a very small ATM network and I get wacked if I use an ATM that isn’t theirs. This article had me checking my BOA account and although I haven’t been hit with the fee yet, it sure looks like I will be getting charged it. I just ran over took $500 out of the ATM and deposited into my local bank. Tomorrow I’ll grab the other $500 and close out the account. I was afraid to actually go into the bank and talk to someone as they’ll probably hit me with a fee for that, and then hit me with a “closing the account fee”, hence I’ll empty the account and then tell them to go F themselves.

    • Link_Shinigami says:

      Lmfao I like that approach. You’ll probably be better off letting them do the whole “If you don’t put xx in by this date, we’ll close your account” that way they closed your account, not you, so that should excuse you from a closing fee since you didn’t close it… Technically of course, haha

  19. NeverLetMeDown says:

    That’s likely what they wanted to happen. Either pay or leave. Free checking for low-value customers is gradually going the way of the dodo, particularly with increased restrictions on fees.

  20. karlmarx says:

    I have had an account with Bank of America since they were Bank IV in KS. I have had very few problems with them. I have always been able to get my fees reversed. I have also used the contact numbers on this website to get 5 overdraft fees reversed. I now have two checking accounts with BOA and a savings account. I haven’t had any problems or fees in years. Typically BOA will refund from 1-3 overdrafts a year as a courtesy. I had to fight and argue when I had a Credit Union account. I haven’t found another bank in all the years that I have had checking accounts if you work with the bank and look at the resources on this website you really shouldn’t have any problems.

    • christador says:

      Right…because credit unions generally have stricter policies and require a better FICO in order to qualify for the lower rates they offer. They don’t want someone who bounces checks all the time. Some people are a perfect match for BOA.

  21. Merricat says:

    One of the real problems with BofA is that it’s not really one big bank, it’s one big bank that was formed by groups of moderately large banks gobbling up small banks, and then being gobbled up themselves. Which makes it a highly inconsistent company to work with, especially when it comes to things like local customer service. The key to customer service with BofA, I’ve learned, seems to be bypassing all the local players and delving straight into the ‘national’ help. Things like their online assistance and their national call number. Where I’ve often gone home boiling mad after dealing with the locals, I’ve yet to have a negative experience with the other group.

  22. brinks says:

    I got hit with a new maintenance fee on my “free” checking account. It’s never happened before. However, I lost my job and it took a month for my unemployment to be direct deposited into my account. I got hit with the fee during my one month without a direct deposit. Maybe something similar happened?

  23. Destron says:

    I have a free checking account with BOA, about 3 months ago I got hit with a fee, I called them up and they reversed it, 10 minutes on the phone. No big deal.

    Sometimes if people would just take action on something first before bitching and crying to everyone else it would save a lot of drama, Come crying here when they refuse to reverse it, not before you even try.

    • christador says:

      How many people don’t call and just get charged? I don’t do business with companies like that based on principle alone. And how many fees do you get hit with that you don’t even notice? Not to pick on BOA–Citi, Wells Fargo, Chase, they all fall in the same category–crooks.

  24. christador says:

    But why should he have to call the bank?? Maybe an honest mistake, maybe not–I wouldn’t take my chances either. You play with snakes you will get bit. Credit unions are the way to go.

  25. Verdant Pine Trees says:

    I have a BOA account – for now. And they hit me with a bullshit charge. I threatened to walk. They refunded my money. Worth a shot, OP.

  26. pot_roast says:

    I agree with GitEmSteve… call the $%^#@! bank and ask about it first.

  27. HammyRadio says:

    God are you people stupid, I mean really; let me see. I violate the agreement as set forth in my account agreement and then i come whining to the Consumerist like “they screwed me” and I’ll show them and close my account.

    Let me see if this adds up.

    Cost of maintaining account + return on deposit + asset leverage = loser. Yea, you save them plenty by leaving ? B of A. A good choice indeed.

  28. Does not play well with others says:

    I noticed a $13 maintenance fee on my BoA account the other day so I went in to the local branch yesterday afternoon to question it and 15 minutes later they resolved the issue and credited back the erroneous charges.

    I’m actually kind of disappointed since I got myself all psyched up to make a big stink, close all my accounts and storm out of there. The conspiracy theorist in me still wants to think that this is some underhanded strategy for them to bilk their customers that don’t pay close attention to their statements. Still best case this just means that someone or something had a “glitch” somewhere and that doesn’t exactly leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling. Maybe next time they’ll accidentally drain my accounts the exact moment I’m in desperate need of bail money.

  29. bethied says:

    Remember how banks used to charge astronomical overdraft fees? Yeah, they made a lot of their money that way. Well, this summer the laws have been changing and the consumer is now being protected against the fees that resulted in spending $30 for a cup of coffee.

    So all of you, where ever it is that you bank, do not be surprised if you soon witness the demise of free checking. And remember, checking accounts weren’t always free, it is just something that we’ve become accustomed to.