Watch Out For Bank Of America's 'Check Image Service Fee'

Joseph is a longtime customer of Bank of America who has always had a fee-free banking experience. Then he noticed an unfamiliar $3 fee on his account called a “Check Image Service Fee.” He hadn’t heard anything about this, so he signed on customer service chat to find out what it was all about. It turns out to be a fee for having printed images of your canceled checks on a paper statement. Really, the fee is intended to encourage customers to stop receiving paper statements in the mail.

I’ve been a BoA customer for over ten years. I’ve always had a free account, first when they offered free checking to students, then when I had direct deposit. Iwas told the account will always be monthly fee free as long as I had direct deposit set up. It’s been this way forever.

This month I was charged a $3 fee for Check Image Service Fee. I contact the bank [via chat] and this is what they said:

[Chat Agent] : Hello. Thank you for being a valued Bank of America customer. My name is. [redacted]. I will be happy to assist you with your personal checking and savings account. Could you please provide your full name and the last four digits of your checking or savings account number?
You: [redacted]
[Chat Agent] : Hello Joseph.
[Chat Agent] : How may I help you with your personal checking and savings account today?
[Chat Agent] : Well I noticed that I got charged a new fee on the 14th of February that I would like some more info about.
[Chat Agent] : I understand that you would like to know about a fee that was assessed to your account.
You: This is correct
[Chat Agent] : Could you please provide the amount of the fee?
You: $3.00
[Chat Agent] : Thank you.
[Chat Agent] : I understand that you are referring to the check image service fee.
[Chat Agent] : This fee is assessed for statements along with check image copies.
You: that is correct. This is the first time I have seen it.
[Chat Agent] : Shall I set up your account to receive statements without check copies?
[Chat Agent] : Does that work for you?
You: Well, I’m pretty bad at checking my statements, can you tell me what month the statement had the notice of this new fee so I can check to see what I missed
[Chat Agent] : One moment, please.
You: thank you
[Chat Agent] : I apologize for the delay. I’ll be with you shortly.
You: I’m checking my statements now, and there is absolutely no notice of this new fee, unless I’m missing it…
[Chat Agent] : I will go ahead and refund the $3.00 fee/
You: This doesn’t really explain why I was charged this though…
[Chat Agent] : This fee is assessed for statements along with check image copies. Shall I set up your account to receive statements without check copies?
[Chat Agent] : Then you will not get these fees.
You: Well, that is not in my account agreements, so I don’t think I should be charged that anyway. Is there a way I can get this change in fees sent to my house so I have something in writing that my account terms are changing. I haven’t had a fee in over 10 years…
[Chat Agent] : Sure. I will mail you that.
You: Cool, until then, I would like to make sure that any fees I get will be refunded. Can you tell me when these new fees went into effect at Bank of America?
[Chat Agent] : One moment, please.
Last text message received [Chat Agent] : This new fee is effective 2/11/2011.

So the fee is effective 3 days before I got it…no notice or anything (I checked my statements). What a crock. Notice how quick she credited it when I asked in a roundabout way for proof.

From Bank of America’s own FAQ on their site:

What is a Check Image Service fee?

A Check Image Service fee is charged for returning images of your canceled checks with your monthly statement. You can receive an online version of your statement which includes images of your cancelled checks at no cost. To change the way you receive your statements, visit the Stop/Start receiving paper statements link within the Customer Service menu in Online Banking.

How things have been “forever” in your banking life may change in the near future as overdraft fee-starved banks look for new and interesting sources of revenue. Always watch your statements for new fees, or warnings of new fees, and stand up for yourself when you’re incorrectly charged.