Ultimate Bank of America Review

In our past blog posts, we’ve discussed Chase, Capital One, Charles Schwab, and so many other banks, but in this blog post, let’s review Bank of America, the second-largest bank in the United States. So let’s go to the ultimate Bank of America review and go through every single account option that Bank of America currently has to offer to help you decide if this is still a bank worth using.

So we’re specifically going to look at the banking side of this platform, but I will mention from the start that Bank of America also offers credit cards, home loans, auto loans, small business accounts, investing through Merrill Lynch, and a number of other useful financial tools. Don’t worry, we’re going to touch on all of that in this blog post, but on the banking side of things, you’ve got the standard checking and savings accounts, and within the checking accounts, you have three different account options with slightly different benefits.

Checking Accounts

The safe balance checking account is mainly designed for students, waiving any overdraft fees and instead just declining the transaction if the account holder doesn’t have enough funds in their accounts to cover that purchase. Now I will mention that Bank of America as a whole did recently reduce their overdraft fee from $35 down to just $10, but if this is a frequent issue for you, which is very common for students, then the safe balance account is probably your best bet because $10 per month is still ridiculous for an overdraft fee in my opinion.

With that account, you still get access to a lot of their great features and their award-winning mobile application, which we’ll talk about in a second, but there is a $4.95 monthly fee that is somewhat difficult to get waived depending on how old you are. Right now, if you’re under the age of 25 and qualify as a student, under the age of 18, or you are enrolled in Bank of America’s preferred rewards account program, then that fee is able to be waived, but otherwise, you’re looking at $5 a month, and considering this is designed for students who likely don’t have a lot of money, to begin with, then I would say that if you’re not able to get that fee waived, then personally, I would say just avoid this account option.

For most users, however, you’re probably looking at the second checking account option, which is the Advantage Plus account, which has a $12 monthly fee but is much easier to get waived. You either need to have one qualifying direct deposit of $250 or more each month and maintain a balance of $1,500 or more or once again be enrolled in the preferred rewards program, which I’ll talk about later in this blog post. 

So again, I’ll tell you from the start that if you’re not able to get that fee waived, then I wouldn’t even bother with this account, but having a direct deposit or maintaining a balance of $1,500 or more, hopefully, shouldn’t be too difficult if you are using this as your main banking platform.

With Advantage Plus, you gain check-writing, which is not available on the previous account option; several overdraft protection options, and a more generalized banking experience that matches that of a regular everyday bank. But lastly, for $25 per month, you can get the Advantage Relationship account, which is their most premium checking account and removes fees on select additional account services. It earns an interest rate of up to a whopping 0.02%, but that’s only if you have $100,000 in this account, and you can even get paper checks at no additional charge.

If it’s not obvious, I’m being very sarcastic, but you are able to get that monthly fee waived if you have an account balance of $10,000 or more in eligible linked accounts, or once again are enrolled in preferred reporting. There aren’t too many differences between these three checking account options, but they all come with that Bank of America $0 liability guarantee, mobile deposit features, interactive spending, and budgeting tools, and convenient payment methods, including their partnership with Zell, which essentially allows you to send and receive money to and from pretty much any bank account in the US, and even their smart money management tools that allow you to set up custom alerts and savings goals and earn cashback rewards catered towards your spending habits.

Saving Accounts

Thankfully, on the saving side, things are much more simple, but once again, it leaves a lot to be desired. First of all, you’re looking at an $8 monthly fee that you can get waived by either having $500 in this account, having the Advantage Relationship checking account that we just talked about, or once again, being enrolled in the Preferred Rewards program—and since I’ve mentioned it a million times at this point, Preferred Rewards is simply a program that you can enroll in once you’ve had a three-month average balance of at least $20,000 across your banking and investment accounts with Bank of America, and as part of the many advantages that come with being enrolled in Preferred Rewards, you also get a slightly higher interest rate on your savings account.

So if you’re not a Preferred Rewards member, then on your Advantage savings account, you’re looking at 0.01%, but even if you’re enrolled in that program, that rate tops out at 0.04%, which is absolutely pathetic. Just for some perspective, the bank where I keep most of my money currently pays me 2.5%, which is 250 times more than Bank of America, and I also don’t have to jump through many hoops in order to get that stupid monthly fee waived.

With your savings account, you’re going to have standard features like mobile check deposits, automated transfer tools, access to Balance Connect, which is their overdraft protection feature, FTSE insurance, and all of the other basic functions that, again, we’ve all come to expect from any bank account. 

Now, while the banking features may leave a lot to be desired, I will mention that Bank of America’s mobile application is actually really well designed in my opinion, and it’s very obvious that Bank of America has invested a lot of time and money into their digital banking technology, which is something that cannot be said for some of their competitors.

While platforms like Wells Fargo and Chase still feel like they are stuck in the past, in my opinion, I would put the Bank of America mobile app, at least, in a similar category to something like Capital One’s 360 platforms. It’s not going to be the sleekest and most modern experience, but if you’re just looking for bare-bones features and don’t need the most flashy platform on earth, then this one will certainly do the trick.

They’ve also invested a lot of money into their digital banking assistant, which they call Erika; I’m not really sure where the name comes from, but it is also very highly rated, and from the testing that I did on their customer service, it was actually easier to get an answer via the AI banking assistant than getting an answer from a natural person on the phone. Now they do offer CDs or certificates of deposit, which is an advantage that they have over many of the modern financial technology companies that do not currently offer this as an account option.

However, they’re not even worth showing you or discussing at length because, on average, they only pay you 0.03%, and considering that involves locking your money into a CD for a set amount of time, it’s hard to view this as an advantage when there are checking accounts out there that offer significantly higher interest rates while still allowing you to access your money at a moment’s notice.

So I could sit here and comb through every finite detail of the banking options, but it’s fairly obvious where this one is headed, and that is that Bank of America really just doesn’t have a lot to offer, at least on the banking side of things. So let’s just answer the question now of whether this platform is still worth it, and the easy answer is no, absolutely not, but I wouldn’t say it is the worst banking option, at least as long as Wells Fargo is still in business.

That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t have any good financial tools to offer, which we will look at next, but strictly looking at the banking side of things, I’d say avoid it at all costs. And honestly, even if you’re just not comfortable with a fully online bank account, which is completely understandable, there are still much better options out there that pay significantly more interest and are still going to give you that more traditional banking experience, like the Capital One 360 bank account for example.

Obviously, Bank of America does have those 4000 brick-and-mortar locations in addition to their 16,000 free ATMs, but if you compare those numbers to their national banking competition, again, it’s just nothing to write home about. Perhaps I’ve been a little bit too hard on Bank of America, and they do still have a lot to offer outside of their banking tools, thank goodness, and really the best tools that they have come from the credit card side of things.

I could probably write an entirely separate blog post on all of the different credit cards that they currently offer, but my favorite one right now is the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Card, which is a really unique product, giving you 3% cash back on certain categories of your choice, including gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, and home improvement slash furnishings.

Plus, the coolest part about this card is that you can actually change which category that 3% goes towards once per month, which in a lot of ways makes it similar to the City Custom Cash Card, which also offers you a higher bonus reward on your highest spending category. Now, this blog post is not intended to be a credit card review, so if that is something that you’d like to see, then let me know in the comment section below.

But just at a quick glance, Bank of America definitely has a lot to offer on the credit card side of things, so that’s definitely something that I would check out. But perhaps their biggest additional feature is Merrill Lynch, which is their investing platform, allowing you to invest in stocks, ETFs, options, and many other asset types for no fees through their fairly well-designed desktop platform and mobile-based investing tools.

They offer this in both a self-directed and guided investing account option, and while I personally feel that there are still better options out there for investing, I can’t rag on this platform too much, and in comparison to the pathetic begging features that we just looked at, this is definitely a solid 6 out of 10, and that’s saying something considering the banking features are probably a 2 out of 10 on a good day.

Like I said, they do also offer several lending options, so maybe something worth looking at there as well, but for me personally, I like to condense all of my financial tools under as few platforms as possible, so if you’re the same way and you’re not using Bank of America as your main banking platform or investing tool, then I don’t see any advantage to using their lesser-known tools like lending services and that sort of stuff.

Really, the only silver lining in all of this is those unique credit card offerings, but when looking at the Bank of America platform from a macro viewpoint, I’d personally say that no, this platform is definitely not worth it, and there are much better options out there when looking at even just national banks alone. But I’d love to know what you think of this debate in the comments section below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *