Evolution of Our Relationship with Bank of America

bankLet’s get one thing straight from the start: I think Bank of America is terrible.  You will hear that repeatedly through this post.  Kyle thinks Bank of America is okay.  They haven’t done anything major to annoy him – or perhaps I should say he has not let the things about their service that drive me crazy get to him.

 

This post details the stages of our use of BoA and concludes with why the heck we still have an account with them.

 

The College Years

 

Kyle and I both got Bank of America student checking accounts in August 2003 when we started college, along with a huge percentage of our other classmates (just like that faulty Dell laptop that was on sale that month!).  I had come from VA to CA for college so my parents and I thought it would be best to choose a bank that had branches all over the US, which BoA did (ostensibly – more on that later).  There was a branch in the cute little shopping area walking distance from our school.  And honestly, everything was fine back then.  We made little transactions with our debit cards, used the BoA ATM – fairly tame stuff.  There were no minimums to get free student accounts and we had full service options, not that we really needed them.

 

Undgergrad to Grad

 

Fast forward to college graduation.  Kyle was entering grad school so he could continue his student account fairly seamlessly.  I asked BoA if my account would convert to a normal checking account with fees (because I didn’t have enough money to meet their minimums) and was assured that “student” accounts actually last for five years.  Knowing that I would be in grad school by the time that clock timed out, I put it out of my mind.  When I started grad school I brought my new student ID to my local branch to have my student account clock reset (or whatever) they told me they updated the account, but a few months later my account rolled from a student to a normal account and I was hit with a monthly fee.  I got it reversed, but that was just one of many mistakes BoA would make with my account.

 

East Coast/West Coast

 

The year after college we both moved to the east coast, me to the DC area and Kyle to Durham.  We both discovered that despite the fact that BoA seems to be a nationwide bank (I mean, AMERICA, right?), the BoAs in CA are actually “on a different system” than the BoAs in the other lower 47.  What that meant is that our local branches could take deposits and such – basically anything an ATM could do – but to do anything that you needed a human for, like getting a mistake corrected, they had no power.  They had to call the CA branches up and get those people to do whatever it was that you wanted.  Kyle, upon finding this out, did the smart thing and closed his CA account and opened an account in NC.  I didn’t close my account right away because there was the possibility that I would move back to CA for grad school, and then made the very stupid choice not to close and re-open it when I committed to grad school in NC.

 

For the first year or so, every time BoA made a mistake with my account (which happened a couple times per year) I would call or go down to our local branch to try to get them to remedy it, and they would call over to CA, and the whole ordeal would take forever.  After that I wised up and started saving myself the trips to the local branch and just called the CA hotline myself to get the mistakes corrected.  Skipping the trip to the local branch meant missing out on their ability to cut to the front of the customer service line, so the trade-off for not going to the branch was that I would wait on hold for tens of minutes before talking to a human.  BoA’s phone customer service is notoriously terrible, but at least I could wait in the comfort of my home.

 

The Rise of the Internet Banks

 

I signed up with ING after I graduated from college and started getting a handle on my finances.  I thought internet banks could have the potential to be better than brick-and-mortar but I wasn’t sure about the logistics of it all.  At the time, ING did not offer free paper checks, their ATM network was a bit less convenient than the BoA network for my location, and check deposit was only through the mail.  I used both checking accounts for a few years – I had my paychecks and bill pay linked to my ING account and transferred my discretionary spending to my BoA account every month.

 

Over time I became more comfortable with ING and used my BoA account less and less.  Despite not having any physical branches, I experienced superior customer service when I called ING than when I tried to use BoA’s (since the local branches were useless to me).  BoA continued to screw up my account on a regular basis by violating their own terms of service and I had to constantly keep on top of my transfers to make sure nothing went amiss.  In contrast, I had no problems with ING.

 

Marriage and Cord-Cutting

 

By the time Kyle and I got engaged, I was totally fed up with BoA and wanted both of us to close our accounts.  Kyle’s experience with them had been fine – just one mistake on BoA’s part that he had to correct.  Kyle was leery of using ING exclusively, though.  It took us a few months of arguing between internet and brick-and-mortar banks even after we were married before Kyle came up with a solution acceptable to both of us: Ally.  It turned out that Kyle’s objection to ING wasn’t the fact that it was internet-only but rather that they didn’t offer free checking – and Ally did.  Ally also allowed us to use any ATM without fees.

 

Kyle still wanted to keep his BoA account for cash and check deposit because he didn’t like mailing checks in.  So we closed my CA BoA account and kept Kyle’s NC BoA account and made it joint.  But after a transition period we no longer did any real banking through BoA as we almost never receive checks, and eventually Ally added scanned check deposit and then a smartphone app with deposit.  The only time having the account has come in handy was once when we needed to get something notarized, which BoA offered to us free of charge.

 

Not a Student, Not Yet a PhD

 

We recently received notice from BoA that Kyle’s account is set to roll from a student account to a regular account.  Kyle is still a student, so he contacted BoA about getting the student account extended and they told him once that student accounts are only good for 5 years (it’s been 5.5 years with this particular one) and then that they are only good for 10 years (it’s only been 9.5 years total).  In any case, his (reasonable, we thought) request was refused.

 

The regular accounts are now subject to tiered service, and if we want to keep from paying a monthly fee and keep our low balance we have to give up teller service, so basically BoA is only going to let us use them like they are an internet bank.  The only remaining advantage, then, is the option to deposit cash in an ATM, which we can’t do with Ally.

 

I’m still advocating for us to close the BoA account and go exclusively with Ally but Kyle wants to be ready in case someone ever gives us a bunch of cash (???).  Maybe when we move to San Diego we can get a credit union or something and we can finally give up BoA, but for now it looks like BoA (or a similar megabank) is going to be in our account mix.  But we are keeping our account balance tiny!

 

If you put up with crap from your megabank, why do you continue to use them?  With which banks have you had particularly good or bad customer service?  Have you had issues transitioning from a student checking account?

 

photo from Free Digital Photos

 

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36 Responses to "Evolution of Our Relationship with Bank of America"

  1. CashRebel says:

    I’ve heard so much crap about BOA, I can’t believe they are still serving customers poorly! I’ve been with US Bank for a number of years. I keep meaning to switch to Ally (where I have my savings account), but USB hasn’t given me a reason to leave because they’ve never charged me fees or messed up my account. I love Ally, but to be honest US Bank has treated me fairly

    1. Emily says:

      If your bank is competent and you’re not paying fees or whatever, I don’t see much of a reason to switch, either. I guess that’s what Kyle is thinking (after accepting the service downgrade)!

  2. I opened a BofA account with their military bank during a brief period of eligibility since I was told that I would be eligible later for good mortgage rates, car loans, etc…. but as it turned out, they closed my account for inactivity without notifying me. I had to retrieve the money from my state agency (it was only a couple hundred bucks) and never got any benefits from the military bank.
    That said, we use Wells Fargo and get great service in the branches – though their mortgage refinance department seemed to be completely bonkers when we dealt with them. But that is remote and at a call center in a completely different state.
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..Actual Cost of Owning A Pool – Part 2

    1. Emily says:

      Wow, that is strange! I wonder if they would do that to us – we don’t actively use either the checking or savings account we have with BoA. It’s weird how different bank departments are so soloed and don’t talk with one another.

  3. THe problem with giant national banks is that they’re giant and they’re national. They don’t know about you and your locality and what your deal is. They’re national, with national offices, and national interests. That’s why I bank local. I use this bank that has some branches in my own city and that’s it. When I travel out of town, I make sure to withdraw enough money (or accept ATM fees at a bank that’s not my own in another city), and that’s that.
    TB at BlueCollarWorkman recently posted..The Mask of a Demolition Man

    1. Emily says:

      The thing is that I don’t mind the impersonal nature of banking as long as they are competent, like ING and Ally. And since we are transient we don’t really want to bank locally and be switching every few years – though when we are finally settled we will look into more local options.

  4. Leslie used to have a BoA account, but wasn’t a huge fan, so when we decided to have a joint account we closed her account there and added her onto my account at the local credit union. I’ve banked with them for years and have never had a problem. Leslie has used BoA and National City, and wasn’t pleased with either service and it’s left a pretty bad taste in her mouth when it comes to large banks. We recently opened a new account at PNC (for the Virtual Wallet and ATMs everywhere) and so far I like it! Leslie agreed to wait 90 days before making a final judgement…we’re less than 30 days in so you’ll have to wait to hear about her thoughts.
    Kyle @ Debt Free Diaries recently posted..Big Trip Coming Up This Weekend, How We Prepared

    1. Emily says:

      I think that’s smart to check out a new bank and know that you are in a trial period for a time. That way it’s not such a big deal if you decide you don’t want to continue the relationship.

  5. Leigh says:

    I used to be with a big bank that I won’t name. It was super convenient because they had a branch right next to my office and all of the people in that branch were super friendly and helpful. But then I moved offices. There was no longer a convenient branch and fees started happening (when I supposed had a super fancy free account because of my employment).

    I was not impressed, so I eventually left and moved my money to a credit union. Their online banking really sucked. And they didn’t have any branches near my office. So I switched to a credit union that did have a branch near my new office. Now that I no longer have my mortgage with that credit union and I’m no longer using my debit card enough to qualify for the rewards checking account that was earning me $15/month in interest, I’m seriously considering moving my checking account elsewhere where I would get a bit of interest. Now, the great thing about credit unions is that I can use almost any credit union ATM in the US for free. If I’m not near a credit union ATM, that’s what I have my Schwab debit card for (free ATM fees *worldwide*!!), but I’m still somewhat considering moving my daily banking to the credit union that’s right around the corner from my condo.

    The annoying thing in all of this? I keep opening accounts and not closing them, so now I get a gazillion banking statements each month. I still have my ING checking account open. There are no fees, so why not? I still have the accounts open at that first credit union. And honestly, I’d probably leave the accounts open at the second one too.

    Then again, I don’t really ever have a need to go into a branch these days. So maybe switching isn’t really worth it.
    Leigh recently posted..Challenge: No Manual Money Moves in April

    1. Emily says:

      Wow, you have done a lot of switching! We really don’t have a need to enter branches any more, either… I keep wondering what we’re missing. The thing that would be annoying is if you aren’t near a branch but are required to go in for some reason (for me, to change my last name) and it’s inconvenient whereas an internet bank would be able to do everything online/over the phone/through the mail. So I don’t think I would switch banks just because a location became inconvenient because I moved unless they are just not represented in that city at all, but I’d prefer to just avoid the problem entirely and use an internet bank.

      We have kind of half cleaned up accounts and half not – for example, we closed all of our ING savings accounts when we moved to Ally but we kept the checking account open with $25 in it “just in case” – and I think it’s come in handy once. Not really worth the emotional energy of keeping it open!

      $15/month is sweet but I wouldn’t want to keep up with whether or not I’d jumped through all the hoops to get it especially if it means actually changing my behavior.

      1. Leigh says:

        Exactly! The $15/month was a lot sweeter when it was $20+/month and before that when it was better as well AND when I didn’t have credit cards with usable limits, so I was being paid to keep my behavior exactly the same.

        The main reason I switched from the big bank once my office moved was that I wasn’t a fan of the bank overall, but the people in my branch were pretty okay and I went to them whenever I had problems. Online banking being annoying is a perfectly legitimate reason to switch though 😛
        Leigh recently posted..Challenge: No Manual Money Moves in April

  6. Good ol’ BOA. I hear nothing but problems with this bank. I currently have a few accounts with BB&T and they have been good. I also have an online account at a credit union which is awesome. You are just a number to BOA and they don’t care if they lose you. When Wachovia as purchased by Wells Fargo, I left and Wells Fargo didn’t even care. I guess I didn’t have enough money for them to care.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..How Debt Started My Quest Toward Financial Literacy

    1. Emily says:

      My parents have used BBT forever and I think they like it… but they also don’t know about the capabilities that banks have today! They’re always, like, going to the branch and I don’t understand why.

      BoA definitely wouldn’t care if we left since they’d lose only a few bucks in deposits!

  7. krantcents says:

    Although I am a B of A customer for 40+ years, if they would make mistakes on my account every year they would be history! I would pick a good local bank that provides good service and convenience. I have another account at a credit union, but it is really just for savings.
    krantcents recently posted..10 Things You Don’t Know

    1. Emily says:

      I don’t know if you’re luck or I’m unlucky but I’m glad you’ve had a good experience with BoA! Maybe it was my behavior but I know I stayed within the rules and they kept charging me fees. Is there a reason you haven’t switched your banking to your credit union?

  8. The reason that I have a credit card in collections is because BoA bought out accounts from MBNA and refused to honor the payment plan I had set up with MBNA. However, they were still accepting the payments! The payments were initiated on their side, but because the account was closed, they apparently had no way of stopping them. When I moved, my old checking account wound up several hundred dollars in the red due to over-draft fees from payments I couldn’t stop.
    I wound up having to borrow money to get the account back into black, close the account again and send notarized letters to both my old bank and BoA stating that any charges to that account from BoA were unauthorized, would not be honored, and a lawsuit would be filed if an attempt was made. Somehow they figured out how to stop the charges when legal action was threatened!

    BoA is definitely one of the worst banks out there, but poor service certainly isn’t limited to mega-banks. When I first got married, we had accounts with a regional chain called Compass Bank. After talking to them for 2 years about our plan to buy a house and asking about the requirements that we needed to meet to qualify for a mortgage, when the time came, they denied us for the credit score being too low. Maybe that was something they should have warned us about sometime in that 2 year period?
    After that, we closed all of our accounts with them and switched to Chase. We’ve had excellent service with them, we get free checking and savings accounts, and there are at least 10 branches to choose from within city limits. Plus, they are back in NJ as well for when we go back.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Hidden Dark Side of Low Prices

    1. Emily says:

      Whaaaaaa! That is so messed up! Why couldn’t they do the right thing the first time around??

      I’m glad you found a bank you’re happy with now! We have credit cards through Chase and haven’t had any issues with them. Our #s have been stolen on a few occasions but they fixed the accounts pretty quickly.

  9. Heather says:

    What an ordeal! I think many college students/young couples who have the money and interest to shop around for the best banking options experience these same transitions. We did–although ours was not dressed with so much frustration and errors.

    I used my home credit union all through college (there were sister-branches in CA), and now I use USAA (joint account with my spouse) and have always had free checks and free ATM usage (any ATM, so long as it’s less than 10 transactions/month). With USAA you have no brick-and-mortar buildings, which was a concern at first, but now I see it as freeing. I can do everything by mail or online, and nothing changes next time we move other than updating our address–talk about convenience.

    We did find ourselves with “a bunch of cash” when we sold a car. It was a few thousand bucks and we managed to spend it through groceries, gas, etc. over a few months time. USAA also has great phone customer service, and you don’t have to be military (we aren’t) to sign up, it just means you have fewer features (like scanning checks vs mailing them to make a deposit).

    I’d never been on a “student plan” with a bank–I wonder if these special programs are more prone to errors/mistakes? Sort of like signing up for the free 12 mo of a magazine but then having to call in and work around the hassle of cancelling before they charge you.

    Good luck!

    1. Emily says:

      I know what you mean by freeing – feeling you can be whereever without issue – that’s how we feel about Ally.

      Thanks for pointing out the occasion on which you received a bunch of cash! I hadn’t thought about that but it is better to deal with cash with private sellers when possible. I used a cashier’s check when I bought my car. At some point we will sell our cars and that is something to keep in mind. I asked Kyle, though, if he would feel comfortable putting into an ATM any amount of cash that we couldn’t spend ourselves over a few months, and he didn’t really have an answer. I don’t think I’d want to put more than a few hundred $ in an ATM!

      Several of the errors were directly related to the student accounts turning into normal accounts, but some were unrelated. I think it was more that I kept a low balance.

  10. I’ve heard of several people having issues with BofA but I’ve been a customer for 15 years now and have never had an issue with them. My husband still has an account with a local credit union, and we were planning on switching over to them but their online banking system is a complete joke. And that’s how I pay all our bills. So for now, we keep BofA (free checking with direct deposit), but for any future loans (car, mortgage), we’ll go with the credit union.

    1. Emily says:

      I wouldn’t be able to work with a bank that didn’t have a good online system! Sounds like a decent plan as long as BoA continues to be problem-free.

  11. Emily get this! We went into BofA the other day to get Vanessa’s name put on all the accounts. It turned into a 2 day ordeal. Day one the guy working couldn’t figure it all out so we had to return the next day….

    The next day, they switched my account with my parents! Not sure how he managed that. It took us several HOURS to add her name to a checking account!
    [email protected] recently posted..5 Warning Signs That You Might Be Financially Illiterate

    1. Emily says:

      He didn’t know how to add a name to an account – are you kidding me?? And then they mix up separate people?!?! Unbelievable!

  12. We were with WF for years. I’m a geek and do everything online as far as possible. The few times we needed something done in person, the people were basically friendly and efficient. But they were never the same people. It’s a crapshoot it seems on if you get the competent person or the other one.

    Same with doing stuff over the phone. Some know and some don’t. The phone thing is easy, though. Just say, I gotta go, and call back. Then you’ll get another person.

    Now we use a different bank where people stayed a lot longer. We must be the kiss of death, because they’re all gone, replaced by a new revolving door.

    Banking is going the way of buying cars, I guess… 🙂
    William @ Bite the Bullet recently posted..Are Bonds A Safe Investment… Really?

    1. Emily says:

      When we were going to our local BoA branch regularly we saw the same tellers over a long period of time but the management seemed to change a lot. I don’t want to deal with incompetent people at all, though – I want it done right the first time!!

  13. CollegeMom says:

    This is a really sore subject with me. My first job out of college was with NCNB and I was there when they started gobbling up banks to become Nationsbank and eventually BOA. My mother was a teller with NCNB when I was a baby. She was at the Carrboro branch while my dad was in law school at UNC.

    I was there when people made loan decisions and were trusted to take chances, when we called our customers on overdraft every morning to give them a chance to bring the money in (and we knew who would be there when we unlocked the doors). We built relationships. I was lucky enough to work in a rural branch where I took care of businesses and regular customers, so I learned a lot. I know it sounds odd, but NCNB is where I learned about customer service and being a responsible corporate citizen.

    It has been heartbreaking to see such an important member of my hometown’s community go from treating customers with respect to abusing them with what I feel are predatory fees.
    CollegeMom recently posted..10 Fun and cheap staycation ideas

    1. Emily says:

      That must be really tough! I didn’t know BoA/predecessors used to be great. It’s strange now that the better customer service comes from megabanks that offer no face-to-face service (in comparison with brick-and-mortar megabanks). I guess that slide into automating everything and not bothering with relationships is how the whole industry is moving, though maybe some credit unions still work that way.

  14. If you get a lot of cash you need to deposit, you can open up a bank account with that cash.

    Also, why not have a credit union account now?
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..Ask the grumpies: A two-body problem solution?

    1. Emily says:

      True, we can always open an account if we ever have that situation come up. I think that’s a good suggestion.

      Basically we don’t want to have accounts that won’t move well with us. We are about a year (if all goes well) from moving away from Durham so that’s why we don’t have an account with our university’s credit union, for example. And we’re very happy with Ally as our primary bank. What do you think about having accounts with local banks and having to open and close them every few years – worth it?

  15. Kelly says:

    I have been using Schwab’s online banking for years, and they are fabulous. No ATM fees worldwide, and it is super easy to set up transfers to other people’s accounts if needed to pay bills, etc…
    I used to have Wells Fargo for a local bank, then closed when they started monthly fees to have an account with them.

    The only reason I see for a local bank is to be able to get money in emergencies. I had my wallet stolen a few years ago (all debit and credit cards gone), and having a local bank meant I could get cash out by going in person (fortunately I had my passport for ID). Now though I’ve wised up and keep one credit card locked in a safe at home, so I suppose even in an emergency I wouldn’t *need* a local bank.

    1. Emily says:

      I’m glad you have had such a good experience with Schwab. I hadn’t thought about emergencies, but I think I like your credit-card-at-home answer better than the local bank answer. We don’t have that kind of system set up, but I guess it’s unlikely that Kyle and I would both be without our wallets.

  16. Lucas says:

    LOL – I had bad expiriences with BOA as well and switched to completely online through Fidelity (ok, my morgage is through a local credit union – but I have never been to a branch and they did all the paperwork online or sent someone to my house to do it). Customer service is better, I can do almost everything online, they refund ATM fees from any ATM, and I save time by not going standing in a line in a bank branch anymore.

    When I closed my BOA account to switch it to fidelity they asked me why I was closing and I gave them the interest rates and features I was getting on my online account and asked if they could match them (didn’t bother going into the mistakes they had made). The guy just looked at me and said “I will help you close your account right away”, as if he didn’t want anyone else in the bank to hear our discussion 🙂 It was priceless. That was 5 years ago now 🙂

    * The only grip I have with Fidelity is they don’t have a check deposit scanning tool setup unless you have a iDevice (ipod/phone/pad). Android might work, but i havn’t bothered checking. When i had my ipod it worked fine, but now that I got rid of all smart devices I have to mail my checks rather than being able to scan on my computer.

    1. Emily says:

      That’s too bad Fidelity doesn’t have scanned check deposit! Otherwise it sounds really good. That is really funny how the BoA guy closed your account. I probably would have told them I was dissatisfied with the customer service, though. Not that it would have done anything. :/

  17. […] account with ING Direct (now Capital One 360) after I graduated from college when I realized that Bank of America didn’t have great terms.  For a year I straddled ING and BoA, not confident that I could completely untether myself from […]

  18. […] though I hate Bank of America, I have to give them props this week.  Kyle’s checking account has been under threat of […]

  19. […] If we were to sign up for this card, we would put the smallest monthly recurring charge we have on it that is more than $15.  We would autodraft the bill from this account, set up an automatic payment to pay it off in full and ahead of time, and not even keep the card itself in our wallets.  The account would exclusively be for paying this one bill.  You can redeem the rewards as a statement credit, but we would elect to have it deposited directly into our BoA checking account (finally a use for it!). […]

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