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Bank of America Review: Checking, Savings and CDs

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bank of america review

Bank of America
NerdWallet’s rating: 3.0 / 5.0

3.0 stars out of 5

Bank of America has a strong selection of online tools, an impressive network of branches and ATMs, and solid checking account options. But it doesn’t have much else to brag about.

Customers will run into steep fees and below-average savings rates, which is really saying something considering that national rates continue to be historically low.

Bank of America may be right for you if:

  • You value easy access to branches more than high rates and low fees.
  • You want an excellent online and mobile banking experience.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best national banks

Our ratings

Checking accounts3.5 stars out of 5
Savings & money market accounts2.5 stars out of 5
Certificates of deposit (CDs)2 stars out of 5
Customer experience3.5 stars out of 5
Other fees2.5 stars out of 5
Overall3.0 stars out of 5

Read on for more details about Bank of America’s checking and savings accounts, CDs, customer experience and fees.

Checking accounts

3.5 stars out of 5
3.5 / 5.0

Bank of America has a basic checking account and one that bears interest. There’s nothing especially wrong with either one — in fact, it’s fairly easy to avoid the monthly fees for both, which isn’t something you can say about every big bank’s checking accounts. But you’d think that one of the country’s largest financial institutions would throw more resources toward creating more attractive checking products.

The SafeBalance Banking account, which is tailor-made for frequent overdrafters, is a step in the right direction. In lieu of charging fees, Bank of America will simply decline transactions if the account holder doesn’t have sufficient funds in his or her account. But the account still has downsides, including the unavoidable $4.95 monthly fee and the lack of checks.

ProsCons
  • Makes it relatively easy for customers to avoid the $12 monthly fee on the basic account; options include:
    • Receiving monthly direct deposits of at least $250.
    • Maintaining an average daily account balance of at least $1,500.
    • Being a student under the age of 23.
  • Offers interest checking account holders free overdraft protection transfers from linked Bank of America savings accounts.
  • Has about 16,000 free ATMs.
  • Makes it less easy for account holders to avoid the $25 monthly fee on the interest-bearing account; options include:
    • Keeping a combined balance of at least $10,000 across Bank of America checking, savings and investment accounts.
    • Enrolling in the Preferred Rewards program, which requires balances of $20,000 or more across BofA accounts.
  • Pays a low annual percentage yield on the interest-bearing checking account: 0.01% or 0.02%.
  • Charges a $2.50 fee for using non-Bank of America ATMs in the U.S., and a $5 fee when doing so abroad.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best checking accounts

Savings and money market accounts

2.5 stars out of 5
2.5 / 5.0

Bank of America offers a basic savings account with a 0.01% APY and a money market account that carries a baseline rate of 0.03%. Customers can jump through several hoops to secure higher rates, but they still top out at 0.06%. Both accounts require a $25 initial deposit, which is low for a money market account.

Pros Cons
  • Waives the $5 monthly maintenance fee on basic savings accounts for customers who do one of the following:
    • Make monthly transfers of at least $25 from a Bank of America checking account to a savings account.
    • Maintain a daily balance of at least $300.
    • Link to a Bank of America Interest Checking Account.
  • Pays very low rates across the board.
  • Requires customers to do one of the following to avoid the $12 monthly fee on the money market account:
    • Maintain a minimum daily balance of at least $2,500.
    • Link an interest checking account.
    • Become a Preferred Rewards member.

» MORE: Bank of America vs. Chase: head-to-head comparison

Certificates of deposit

2 stars out of 5
2.0 / 5.0

It’s best to steer clear of Bank of America’s CDs. Consider this: A customer who puts $1,000 in a 10-year CD will have earned only about $15 once the decade is up. Worse yet, that CD rate — 0.15% — is the best you’ll find at Bank of America.

ProsCons
  • Waives early withdrawal fees for customers who've had a Risk Free CD for at least six days.
  • Offers lots of term lengths.
  • Requires a steep minimum deposit of at least $1,000 across all CDs.
  • Pays incredibly low rates, ranging from 0.03% to 0.15% APY.

» MORE: What is a CD?

Customer experience

3.5 stars out of 5
3.5 / 5.0

You’re likely to find rates much higher than Bank of America’s at your local credit union. But you probably won’t find the same caliber of digital tools and services. Bank of America’s mobile app has it all, including check deposit capabilities and a reliable bill-payment function. And the bank boasts award-winning security and fraud-prevention systems.

Bank of America’s budgeting and expense-tracking platform is also one of the best of its kind. It visualizes your spending and saving patterns in straightforward graphs and charts, which makes monitoring monthly expenses a little more interesting. Plus, the bank has nearly 5,000 branches in 34 states.

Other fees

2.5 stars out of 5
2.5 / 5.0

Bank of America has a $35 overdraft fee, which it can charge up to four times per day. And the $12 overdraft protection fee charged to basic checking account holders can also do some damage over time.

The bank charges a 3% fee for foreign transactions, more than most financial institutions.

Stash your savings elsewhere

Bank of America has solid checking accounts, and its customers shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a nearby branch or ATM.

But because its savings rates are so low, you’d be better served putting your emergency fund elsewhere, such as a high-yield savings account at a credit union or online-only bank.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s top high-yield online savings accounts

Tony Armstrong is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: tony@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @tonystrongarm.

This article was updated June 24, 2016. It was originally published in August 2015.


RATINGS METHODOLOGY

For banks and credit unions, NerdWallet’s overall rating is a weighted average of each subcategory: checking accounts, savings and money market accounts, CDs, customer experience and other fees. Factors we consider, depending on the subcategory, include rates and fees, ATM and branch access, account features and limits, user-facing tech and customer service. Several Nerds contribute to each financial institution’s ratings to ensure consistency and accuracy.

What the ratings mean:
5 stars out of 5 — Among the very best
4.5 stars out of 5 — Very good; only minor caveats for most customers
4 stars out of 5 — Good; issues that might make a difference to some customers
3.5 stars out of 5 — Fair; make sure strengths and weaknesses are a good match for you
3 stars out of 5 — Poor; proceed with great caution
2.5 stars out of 5 (or below) — Best to avoid