Bank of America Fees Explained

A woman passes a Bank of America office branch in New York on Dec. 7, 2011
A woman passes a Bank of America office branch in New York City. Mark Lennihan/AP Photo

Almost every one of us has a checking account. And if you don’t have one, get on it — on top of safely storing your money, you could be eligible for a new-account bonus, free checks and other perks.

For many of us, checking is the way we pay our bills and budget for our lives. It’s not where we store an abundance of money, like a savings account. Instead it holds enough to cover regular expenditures, and ideally, a little buffer cash.

Often, banks with business checking accounts charge users a fee monthly to maintain this service. However, most banks offer general checking for free to everyday customers who use it for personal expenses, with certain stipulations.

The hope is that — once they have you as a checking account customer — you’ll stick around for other services, such as savings accounts and loans. Perhaps you’ll refer family members and friends to open savings accounts and other type of accounts with this business, as well.

How Bank of America’s Fees Work

Here are the results of our survey of BofA fees:

Bank of America’s Account Fees

Bank of America used to be one of those institutions that offered a fee-free checking to customers. This one account was available to users without maintenance or ATM fees.

Then, a couple years ago, some BofA customers who’d previously enjoyed a free eBanking (online banking) account got an unwelcome surprise.

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Bank of America and its Monthly Maintenance Fee

For years, BofA offered an eBanking checking account that allowed consumers to keep a free checking account — if they agreed to go paperless and handle most transactions via ATM or online transfer. This was a simple way for people to avoid monthly charges.

Then, in 2018, the bank changed course.

Bank of America eliminated its eBanking checking account and moved those customers to what it called a Core Checking Account. Members who didn’t fit certain criteria for this account could be charged $12 a month.

Avoiding Monthly Maintenance Fees

Back then, to avoid monthly maintenance fees, customers with a Core Checking Account would need to meet one of two guidelines:

  1. They’d need to have at least one directly deposited $250 or more each month, or
  2. Maintain a balance of at least $1,500.

In other words, BofA wanted to charge customers money for not keeping a the minimum required with stiff overdraft penalties.

Students under 24 years old who were enrolled in high school, college or a vocational program were exempt from these new fees. Still, that left many people susceptible to paying this monthly charge.

How Customers Reacted to Bank of America’s Monthly Maintenance Fees

To be fair, checking programs are expensive to maintain for banks. And more banks started charging monthly maintenance fees to customers who didn’t maintain a minimum daily balance.

But not everyone took this news lying down. There was a petition on Change.org asking Bank of America not to end its free checking. After it launched, the petition garnered over a whopping 380,000 signatures.

The decision wasn’t popular, to say the least.

So, what will BofA  customers pay to maintain a checking account with the bank in 2021? It depends on a couple factors.

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3 Types of Bank of America Checking Accounts in 2021

In the years since, BofA has altered its account offerings. (And there’s no longer a Core Checking account.) Today, the company has three primary checking accounts: Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking®, Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking® and Bank of America Advantage Relationship Banking®.

Here’s a breakdown of each one:

Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking®

Required opening deposit: $25
Interest-bearing account: No
Option to add overdraft protection: No
Overdraft fees: No overdraft or insufficient funds fees
Monthly maintenance fee: $4.95 or $0

Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking®

Required opening deposit: $100
Interest-bearing account: No
Option to add overdraft protection: Yes
Overdraft fees: No overdraft or insufficient funds fees
Monthly maintenance fee: $12 or $0

Bank of America Advantage Relationship Banking®

Required opening deposit: $100
Interest-bearing account: Yes (The annual percentage yield, or APY, will vary based on location and the amount in your account. For example, an account with less than $2,500 in it in West Central Florida will generate a 0.01% APY.)
Option to add overdraft protection: Yes
Overdraft fees: No overdraft or insufficient funds fees
Monthly maintenance fee: $25 or $0

BofA also offers a savings account — Bank of America Advantage Savings — though it requires an opening deposit of $100.

Here’s a table so you can view the different details and fees for BofA checking accounts at a glance.

  Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking Bank of America Advantage Relationship Banking
Required opening deposit $25 $100 $100
Interest-bearing account No No Yes (APY varies on your location and amount in the account)
Option to add overdraft protection No Yes Yes
Overdraft fees No No No
Monthly maintenance fee $4.95 (can be waived) $12 (can be waived) $25 (can be waived)

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How to Avoid Maintenance Fees for Your Checking Account

Depending on the type of account you choose, here’s how you can avoid the recurring fees:

Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking

The fee is waived for each statement cycle in which you’re enrolled in Preferred Rewards.

What is Bank of America Preferred Rewards?

It’s BofA’s rewards program, and there are three tiers: Gold, Platinum and Platinum Honors.

To be a Preferred Rewards client, you must have an active and eligible BoA personal checking account and maintain a three-month combined average of $20,000, $50,000 or $100,000, depending on your tier.

Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking

Monthly maintenance fees are waived for each statement cycle in which you are enrolled in Preferred Rewards, have a qualifying direct deposit ($250 or more) or maintain the daily balance requirement ($1,500).

Bank of America Advantage Relationship Banking

The fee is waived for each monthly statement cycle in which you are enrolled in Preferred Rewards or maintain the combined minimum balance ($10,000) in eligible linked accounts.

Bank of America Student Waiver

Like before, there is a student waiver for bank fees, too. To be eligible, the customer must:

  1. Be enrolled in high school or college, or a university or vocational program, and
  2. Be under 24 years old.

Note: Students may be asked to show proof of enrollment. They will also no longer be entitled to this waiver once they turn 24, if they leave school or are no longer the account owner.

So unless you’re an eligible student, you will need to be a Preferred Rewards program member or meet other qualifying balance or deposit requirements to avoid account fees.

To recap, here’s how you can avoid these fees, by account.

Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking Bank of America Advantage Relationship Banking
The $4.95 fee can be waived each statement cycle if you're enrolled in Preferred Rewards. The fee is also nixed if you qualify for a student waiver. The $12 fee can be waived each statement cycle if you're enrolled in Preferred Rewards, have a qualifying minimum direct deposit ($250) or maintain the minimum daily balance requirement ($1,500). The fee is also nixed if you qualify for a student waiver. The $25 fee can be waived each statement cycle if you're enrolled in Preferred Rewards or maintain the combined minimum balance ($10,000) in eligible linked accounts. The fee is also nixed if you qualify for a student waiver.

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How to Avoid All Bank of America Fees, By Category

Here’s all the Bank of America fees and all the ways you can get around paying for them.

Checking Account Fees

It bears repeating, especially if it means saving you money: You can avoid BofA’s checking account fees in a few ways. Depending on the account, here’s how you can circumvent paying the monthly fee:

  • Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking: Be a Preferred Rewards client or qualify for a student waiver.
  • Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking: Be a Preferred Rewards client, have at least one qualifying deposit of $250, maintain a daily balance of $1,500 or more, or qualify for a student waiver.
  • Bank of America Advantage Relationship Banking: Be a Preferred Rewards client, maintain a combined balance of $10K in eligible linked accounts or qualify for a student waiver.

Savings Account Fees

BofA offers a standard savings account to members: Advantage Savings. It has a $8 monthly fee that can be waived if you:

  • Maintain a daily balance of $500 or more,
  • Link your BoA Advantage Savings account and BoA Advantage Relationship Banking accounts,
  • Become a Preferred Rewards member, or
  • Qualify for a student waiver.

The $8 fee is also waived for new account holders for the first six months.

Wire Transfer Fees

Wire transfers offer a secure way to send money within and outside the U.S. Fees will vary depending on a number of factors, like the fees you may incur from other banks.

You can view a list of some fees here. While you may not be able to avoid a charge completely, you can plan accordingly for them.

Overdraft Charges

Bank of America charges a $35 fee for every overdraft item over $1. The best way to avoid this fee is to stay on top of how much money you have in your account. If your account is eligible, you can also sign up for protection from overdrafts.

ATM Fees (Out of Network, International, etc.)

Bank of America charges users $2.50 domestically and $5 internationally for using non-branded ATMs. You might also incur other ATM operator and international fees.

You can avoid fees entirely by only using Bank of America ATMs. Also, Preferred Rewards program members are entitled to a certain amount (or even unlimited) usage of non-BoA ATMs at no charge.

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Bank of America vs. Other Banks: Comparing Fees

To give you an idea of how BofA compares to other big-name institutions, we compared fees. This information applies to checking accounts.

  Bank of America Chase U.S. Bank Wells Fargo
Required Opening Deposit $25 and up $0 and up $25 $25
Interest-Bearing Account Yes, for higher-tier accounts Yes, for higher-tier accounts Yes, for higher-tier accounts Yes, for higher-tier accounts
Option to Add Overdraft Protection Yes, for select accounts Yes, for select accounts Yes Yes, for select accounts
Overdraft Fees $35 $34 $36 $35
Monthly Maintenance Fees $4.95 and up (can be waived) $4.95 and up (you can waive maintenance fees for certain accounts) $6.95 and up (can be waived) $5 and up (the $5 fee can be waived for members 24 and younger)

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How Lower-Tier Bank of America Accounts Compare

First, if you don’t want to switch banks, dig into your financial situation. For instance, does your employer offer direct salary payment into your account? If so, that’s a qualifying requirement, and a Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking account may work for you. Otherwise, you might want to consider the Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking account.

Here’s a glance at the pros and cons of each account:

Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance Banking Checking Account

Pros:

  • Low opening deposit
  • No overdraft or insufficient funds fees
  • Lowest monthly maintenance fee of all three accounts

Cons:

  • No checks
  • No option to add overdraft protection
  • You need a lot of funds in your account to become a Preferred Rewards program member and get the monthly service fee waived

Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking Checking Account

Pros:

  • No overdraft or insufficient funds fees
  • Option to add overdraft protection
  • Multiple ways to waive the monthly service fee

Cons:

  • $100 to open an account
  • $12 monthly maintenance fee if you don’t qualify for a waiver

Again, if you’re an eligible student under 24, you won’t pay monthly maintenance on any account.

If you’re not exempt from Bank of America’s monthly fees — or looking to avoid monthly service fees altogether — it might be time to consider other options.

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What to Consider When Choosing a Checking Account

Whether you have a BofA or an account at another bank, switching banks can be a pain. But it’s worth it if it will save you cash — and headaches.

Not sure which bank is right for you? We graded 10 checking accounts so you don’t have to do the legwork to find a new place to store your money. You can choose from a variety of online-only and traditional banks. Bonus: Some banks can even help you get your paycheck faster.

Keeping in line with the theme of this article, you save money with this list of several free checking accounts. Most of these accounts take five minutes or less to sign up and some of these banks offer nice perks like a high-interest or a rewards savings account. Just peep the fine print to make sure you’re aware of any ancillary costs. Other account fees or requirements might include:

  • Paying to replace or personalize your debit card,
  • Non-bank ATM or other banks’ ATM fees
  • A minimum daily balance and
  • Various other account fees

Whatever you do, don’t stand back and simply let your bank take nearly $60+ of your hard-earned money away from you every year. There are other banks, and far too many better, easier-to-manage options out there.