NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Bank of America unilaterally amends deposit agreements for Pacific Northwest customers

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.

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  1. […] a few weeks ago, Bank of Amer­i­ca alert­ed cus­tomers in Wash­ing­ton and Ida­ho by U.S. Mail that it was impos­ing new terms and con­di­tions for its finan­cial “prod­ucts”, including […]

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