Bank of America Balance Assist Small-Dollar Loan: 2023 Review
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Pros & Cons
- Charges flat fee.
- Offers small loans up to $500.
- No credit score requirement.
- Must be an existing bank customer.
- Only one repayment term available.
- APR may be high based on loan amount.
Compare to Other Lenders
Full Review of Bank of America Balance Assist
Bank of America’s small-dollar loan, Balance Assist, allows customers to borrow up to $500 in $100 increments, for a flat $5 fee. Then, the loan is repaid over a 90-day period in three equal monthly installments.
To be eligible for Balance Assist, you must be a Bank of America customer with a checking account that’s been open for at least a year. Customers can apply online and have the money within minutes, according to the lender.
Bank of America is part of a small but growing list of mainstream banks that are offering short-term loans as alternatives to high-interest payday loans. Though these loans are a quick and convenient way for customers to handle emergency expenses, some carry high interest rates.
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Bank of America Balance Assist at a glance
Minimum credit score
5.99% - 29.76%.
$5 flat fee.
$100 to $500.
Time to fund after approval
Must be a Bank of America checking account customer.
Bank of America Balance Assist loan requirements
To apply for Balance Assist, you must be a current Bank of America customer with a checking account that’s at least one year old or, if you don’t have a credit score, 2 1/2 years old. You should also have a positive balance in all Bank of America checking accounts that you own or co-own and a history of regular monthly deposits.
According to the lender, approval is based on your relationship with the bank and credit-based factors. This likely includes your credit score and credit history, though there is no credit score requirement for Balance Assist.
Customers can take out one Balance Assist loan at a time, and you cannot take out more than six Balance Assist loans in a 12-month period.
As part of the application, Bank of America will conduct a hard credit inquiry, which is standard for most loan approvals. This can lower your credit score by a few points and stay on your credit report for about two years.
According to the lender, applicants should have the money in their account within minutes of being approved.
Bank of America Balance Assist loan costs
The Balance Assist loan carries a $5 fee, no matter how much you borrow. This means the annual percentage rate will vary based on the loan amount.
For example, if you borrow the minimum of $100, the loan will carry a 29.76% APR. If you borrow the full $500, it will carry a 5.99% APR.
Balance Assist is a significantly cheaper option than a payday loan, which can carry an average APR of almost 400%. The 90-day repayment term is also longer than the two-week repayment term offered by most payday lenders.
There are no fees for paying off your loan early or late fees for missing a payment. The lender also adjusts the overdraft setting on whatever checking account is tied to your Balance Assist loan, so you avoid accidental overdraft fees. However, missed payments may be reported to the credit bureaus, which could hurt your credit score.
Loan example: A $400 loan with an APR of 7.50% repaid over three months would carry:
Total interest: $5.
Total amount due: $405.
Monthly payments: $135.
How Bank of America Balance Assist loan compares
Even with a $100 loan, Balance Assist rates don't exceed 36%, which most consumer advocates consider to be the maximum limit for a loan to be affordable.
Other options for small-dollar loans include personal loans from credit unions, which may be especially affordable for borrowers with fair or bad credit scores. Credit unions tend to offer lower interest rates, flexible terms and more lenient criteria for applicants, and many have a small minimum loan amount. You will need to become a member before applying.
Some online lenders cater specifically to applicants with bad credit or no credit history, but the loans will likely carry a higher APR than Balance Assist. These loan amounts tend to start at $1,000.
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Bank of America Balance Assist isn't a good idea if:
You're trying to build credit: Though your Balance Assist payments may be reported to the credit bureaus, there are more reliable ways to build credit over a longer repayment term, including a secured credit card (which Bank of America offers), a credit-builder loan or paying off existing debt. If you don't know your credit score, get it for free on NerdWallet.
You struggle to budget: The $5 fee may be affordable for most customers, but not if you ultimately can’t make the monthly payments. Add the three installments to your budget before applying to ensure you can comfortably repay the loan over the 90-day period.
You can get cash elsewhere: Paying with cash is always cheaper, even if the cost to borrow isn't high. Consider ways to earn extra money before opting to borrow from a lender.
Alternatives to Bank of America Balance Assist
Here are some more alternatives that may be cheaper than Balance Assist.
If you need to cover an expense like rent, food, utilities, clothing and transportation costs, seek assistance from local nonprofits, charities and religious organizations.
Apply for a payday alternative loan, a type of small personal loan, from a credit union. You have to be a member to use this option, but it’s one of the most affordable ways to pay for an emergency.
Ask your employer for a paycheck advance or use a cash advance app to borrow against your next paycheck.
If you need to cover an essential purchase, consider a buy now, pay later option that offers a zero-interest payment plan.
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