Financial “services” giant Bank of America, which has been staggering through 2011 under the weight of bad debt inherited from acquisitions like Countrywide, has begun informing customers in Washington and Idaho that it is changing the deposit agreements for personal accounts in both states, NPI has learned.
The changes will take effect on October 14th, 2011, according to materials obtained by NPI. In a packet sent out by U.S. mail, Bank of America is spinning the changes it is making as good for customers, promising “greater access and more control”.
But what Bank of America really means is that it is finally getting around to modernizing its stodgy, dated online banking interface (which lacks many basic and advanced features offered by rival banks) whilst making it much harder to avoid monthly “maintenance fees” on checking and savings accounts.
In other words, what Bank of America is doing is eliminating unconditional free checking (and free saving) on just about every type of account it offers.
Take the “eBanking” account offering. A monthly maintenance fee of $8.95 will be automatically deducted from eBanking checking accounts unless a customer has only used “self-service” options for deposits and withdrawals and enrolled in paperless e‑statements. In other words, if you’re a Bank of America customer with an eBanking checking account, and you make just one deposit at the counter with a teller, you’ll owe Bank of America $8.95 for that month.
Even higher fees will be charged to “MyAccess” or “Regular” checking customers. They’ll pay $12 or $14 monthly unless they can maintain a minimum daily balance of $1,500. MyAccess customers can also avoid the fee by making a direct deposit in the amount of $250 at least once a month; Regular customers can also avoid the fee by maintaining minimum daily balances in linked savings accounts.
There is a checking account without any monthly fee — CampusEdge, for students — but once opened, it is converted to another checking account after five years. Proof of student status is required for the account to be opened.
What about savings accounts?
The “Regular” savings account will be subjected to a monthly $5 maintenance fee unless a customer adds at least $25 each month from a Bank of America checking account, or maintains a minimum daily balance of $300, or links the account to a Bank of America Advantage checking account. Only three withdrawals or transfers are permitted per month before a separate “excess withdrawal fee” of $3 kicks in.
And money-market savings account customers will have to keep minimum daily balances in order to avoid maintenance fees.
To be clear, not all of these fees and restrictions are new. Some are, some are not. But what is new is that there are no longer any accounts that cannot be charged monthly fees except CampusEdge and savings accounts for minors. For all other accounts, monthly fees will be charged unless conditions are met.
Bank of America’s literature also says that as of October 16th, “all debit and ATM cards will have their own individual limits for the dollar amount of ATM withdrawals and point of sale purchases you cab make in a single day.” Customers are instructed to look inside a booklet to review the terms that will be applicable to them.
If you are a Bank of America customer, we at NPI encourage you to begin winding down your relationship with Bank of America now in advance of the effective date of these changes. There are many local credit unions that you can move your money to, such as BECU, Sound (Watermark) Credit Union, Alaska USA, or Qualstar.
More and more people are realizing that it makes no sense to continue to do business with Wall Street banks. Last year, several greedy Wall Street banks donated money to Tim Eyman’s I‑1053, including Bank of America, which put up $10,000. (Other I‑1053 supporters included Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase).
Credit unions offer lower fees, better rates, and superior service. You can rest assured that, by joining a credit union, you’ll be able to avoid the new fees and restrictions that big banks are adding to their offerings.
Washington’s largest credit union, BECU, regularly makes a point of letting its members know that it is not planning on following Wall Street’s lead. From the August BECU newsletter:
You may have heard, or may hear stories about financial institutions beginning to levy new or additional fees to their checking accounts or for the use of a debit card. As a member-owned credit union, we do not have any plans to eliminate free checking or add additional fees.
And from the May BECU newsletter:
Free checking is a hot topic right now. Some financial intuitions may offer what appears to be a “free” checking account and then nickel and dime you with fees. We want to assure you that checking is truly free at BECU. Not only is it free, but we actually pay you interest on the balance you have in your checking account. That’s what it means to be a member of a not-for-profit credit union.
Credit unions really are serious about putting their members first. When you join a credit union, you’re joining a member owned financial cooperative that has no outside stockholders to pay. If you’ve still got a Bank of America checking or savings account, make a point of closing it now or during the next few weeks, and move your money to a credit union. You’ll be glad you did.