Bank of America Review: Why the Checking and Savings Options Didn’t Impress

The exterior of a Bank of America building.
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

As one of the largest financial institutions in the United States, Bank of America (BoA) has had its share of controversies. In 2014, it was fined $16.65 billion for its role in the 2008 financial crisis. 

Past controversies aside, is Bank of America (BoA) the right place for you to do your banking? It’s your call. 

This Bank of America review will give you an honest look at the bank’s checking and savings features for individuals and small businesses, as well as its overall convenience and mobile banking features. Note that Bank of America’s credit cards and lending products are not included in this review.

Bank of America Review: The Pros and Cons

What we like:

  • The Keep the Change feature: Adding this feature to your BoA Advantage Savings account lets you add to your savings without thinking about it because it rounds up each debit card transaction and deposits the change into your savings account.
  • BoA’s mobile app: It’s easy to use with some pretty advanced features you don’t find with a lot of banks.
  • Convenience: As one of the “Big Four” banks in the U.S., BoA is everywhere. There are nearly 16,000 ATMS and more than 4,000 brick-and-mortar branches.

What we don’t like:

  • Not for habitual overdrafters: The standard overdraft fee is $35 with as many as four possible per day. An additional $35 gets tacked on after five days of continuous negative balance. Overdraft protection comes with a $10 transaction fee. 
  • The APYs: The rates for checking and savings accounts are well under average.
  • The monthly fees: There’s an $8 monthly fee for savings accounts that do not keep a minimum balance of $500.

Checking 

Grade: C-

You can open Bank of America’s most basic checking account, AdvantageSafe Balance Checking, with a pretty standard $25 minimum opening deposit. 

AdvantageSafe Balance Checking has a $4.95 monthly service fee. Bank of America will waive this fee if you can check one of the following boxes:

  • You enroll in the BoA Preferred Rewards program. To qualify as a Preferred Rewards member, you need a three-month combined average of $20,000 in your Bank of America and Merrill Edge/Merrill Lynch accounts. That can be a tall order for a lot of customers. 
  • You’re under 24 years old and in school.

The Advantage Plus Checking account comes with a $12 monthly fee, but it also has a couple more ways to avoid it. Besides enrolling in Preferred Rewards or qualifying as a student, you can avoid the fee if you:

  • Have at least one qualifying direct deposit of $250 or more, OR
  • Maintain a $1,500 minimum daily balance.
A woman walks into Bank of America.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Neither the AdvantageSafe Balance Checking nor the Advantage Plus offers interest on your money. 

To earn interest with a Bank of America checking account, you need to bump up to the Advantage Relationship checking account. This account offers 0.03% APY on your money, which is below the national average for interest checking accounts. You can get that increased if you join the Preferred Rewards program.  

Bank of America’s overdraft fee is $35 with as many as four possible per day. An additional $35 gets tacked on after five days of a continuous negative balance. 

The overdraft protection option will cover overdrafts by withdrawing money from your savings account, but there’s a significant $10 per transaction fee. You’ll only be charged $10 once per day.

Savings

Grade: C

Bank of America’s basic savings account, the Advantage Savings Account, has a $100 minimum opening deposit. 

There’s an $8 monthly service fee that’s waived if:

  • You maintain a minimum daily balance of $500.
  • You’re a Preferred Rewards Member.
  • You link your savings account to your Bank of America Advantage Relationship Banking account (waiver applies to first four savings accounts).

You won’t make any great gains on your money by way of interest with the Advantage Savings account. You’ll earn just 0.03% APY, well below the national average for savings accounts. The only way to earn more is to become a Preferred Rewards member. 

If you’re looking to open a savings account for a minor, you’re in luck. BoA has a Minor Savings account. It only requires a $25 opening deposit, but there is no minimum balance requirement after that and no monthly maintenance fee. The interest rates are the same as for the Advantage Savings account. 

One feature we do like is the Keep the Change feature. If you opt in to this feature, your debit card purchases will automatically be rounded up, and the leftover change is deposited into your savings account. It’s a simple way to add to your savings without having to think about it. 

If you’re looking for a certificate of deposit, you can start out with a minimum of $1,000. You can also choose your term from as little as 28 days up to 10 years. CD rates vary from 0.03% to 1% depending on the length of your term.

Small Business Banking

Grade: C

Bank of America has a dedicated site just for small business banking. The site makes it easy to track your account and keep on top of things. That said, there are some shortcomings to its services.

The Business Fundamentals Checking account isn’t interest-bearing and doesn’t list a minimum opening deposit amount. However, there is a $17 monthly service fee. This can be waived if you:

  • Spend $250 in net new purchases on a business debit or credit card.
  • Maintain an average monthly balance of $5,000 or more.
  • Maintain a minimum daily balance of $3,000.
  • Maintain a combined average monthly balance of $15,000 or more in your linked Bank of America accounts.
  • Qualify and enroll in the Preferred Rewards for Business program (waiver applies on up to four eligible business checking accounts.)

You’ll get 200 free transactions per billing cycle and $7,500 worth of free cash deposits. 

Bank of America’s next-level account for small business is called the Business Advantage Checking. This account comes with a $29.95 monthly fee. To get this waived, you need to:

  • Spend $2,500 in net new purchases on a business credit card.
  • Maintain an average monthly balance of $15,000 or more.
  • Maintain a combined average monthly balance in your linked Bank of America accounts of at least $35,000.
  • Actively use one or both of these business services: Bank of America Merchant Services or Payroll Services.
  • Qualify for and enroll in the Preferred Rewards for Business program (first four checking accounts per enrolled business)

This account comes with 500 free transactions and no fees for the first $20,000 of cash deposits. As you can see, the Business Advantage Checking is designed for businesses with a little heavier cash flow.

Convenience

Grade: A

Like any of the Big Four banks, BoA is pretty easy to find. There are 4,270 bank locations. That number has been decreasing in recent years, though. It’s not hard to find a BoA ATM either as there are 15,900 in existence. 

As you would expect Bank of America offers many modern-day banking conveniences like a phone app, online banking, and mobile deposits. 

As with most bigger banks, you can do a lot more than just checking and savings with Bank of America. You can get a mortgage, car loan, credit cards and even some investment accounts linked with Merrill Lynch. They even have a Better Money Habits web page that provides financial wellness tips for consumers. 

Mobile Banking

A woman smiles as she looks at her phone.
Getty Images

Grade: A

The BoA mobile banking app gets rave reviews. With a 4.8 out of 5 score in the Apple App Store and 4.7 of 5 in the Google Play Store, it doesn’t get much better.

Users comment on its ease of use, as well as features like money transfers, mobile alerts for low funds  and the ability to deactivate a lost or stolen card. Its fingerprint and face recognition features make it easy to log in and keep your account safe, as well. 

Have you ever had your card declined because you are traveling? Bank of America’s phone app has a feature that you can turn on that will compare the location of your phone to where the transaction takes place. If your phone is nearby, they can assume it’s you and approve the transaction. That’s pretty slick (unless the crook steals your phone and your card).

If you like to feel a personal connection to your banking app, you can even tap into Erica, BoA’s virtual assistant to walk you through your banking tasks. 

Our Bank Review Methodology

The Penny Hoarder’s editorial team considers more than 25 factors in its bank account reviews, including fees, minimum daily balance requirements, APYs, overdraft charges, ATM access, number of physical locations, customer service support access and mobile features. 

To determine how we weigh each factor, The Penny Hoarder surveyed 1,500 people to find out what banking features matter most to you. 

For example, we give top grades to banks that have low fees because our survey showed that this is the No. 1 thing you look for in a bank. Because more than 70% of you said you visited a physical bank branch last year, we consider the number of brick-and-mortar locations. But more than one-third of you use mobile apps for more than 75% of your banking, so digital features are also considered carefully.

Banks are graded across the following categories:

  • Personal checking accounts
  • Personal savings accounts
  • Small-business banking
  • Convenience
  • Mobile banking

Credit card and loan products are not currently considered.

Tyler Omoth is a freelance writer covering topics from personal finance to career advice and even lawn care. His work has been featured on TopResume.com, Writersweekly.com and more. He is also the author of over 70 educational books for children and a proud parent of twin toddlers.