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Why I Continue To Bank With Bank Of America.

First of all, because Bank of America is still in business…for now. So many banks have folded and/or merged that I am glad that BofA is still around. I have been a customer since 1995 when I moved to California from Massachusetts (before BofA was even in MA) and have always had great luck with them. As with any business, there are people who have had bad experiences with them, but I have never had a problem (knock on wood). However, when we moved to New Mexico last year, I had a choice to make as there was no BofA here at all. The closest branch is 23 miles away, and the next closest is 39 miles away. Kind of a long drive to do your banking, especially in the winter when mountain roads become kind of scary. After investigating several of our local, small-town banks, we chose to continue to bank with BofA and to start doing most of our banking by mail. I know I have written about “shopping local” before, and how it can benefit the community, and I feel the same about banks. Unfortunately though, our local banks don’t offer anything near what bigger banks do, and what they do offer they nickel and dime you for. So, we stayed with our original bank, and here are a few reasons why:

Small town = Few local banks with big time fees.

We have 3 banks here in town and one credit union. I cannot be a member of this credit union, but I could sign up at one of the 3 banks…if I didn’t like keeping my own money in my bank. They have charges for checking accounts, savings accounts, for online bill paying, and for just about anything else they could charge a fee for. BofA doesn’t charge me a fee for anything.

BofA online bill pay has every company I do business with in their database

My bank makes it easy to pay a bill – either find it in their up-to-date database and plug in the numbers, or just have them send a check every month. All for free. The online banking features of smaller banks have a lot of work to do to catch up to the capabilities of bigger banks.

BofA has a central place I can track all my different account balances

Instead of using Mint or any of the other online money management software, I just use what Bofa provides right within my online account. I can track account balances in my checking, saving, ING, TRowePrice, Scottrade, Lending Club, MyPoints, airline/rail miles, American Express points, and much more. All for free.

Banking by mail is actually pretty easy

I was a little worried about doing most of my banking by mail (sending in checks, etc), but it has been pretty flawless so far. I do drive any really large checks up to the bank branch itself to make the deposit, but most of the time I use the mail. And when I need cash, I just get cash back at the grocery store, avoiding all the ATM fees that banks like to charge.

I really would like to enjoy that hometown banking experience that so many people have in their communities, but it just doesn’t make sense for us right now. My mom uses a hometown bank, and they actually charge her if she uses her debit card. What kind of nonsense is that? For now I will stick with a big bank with the features I want that doesn’t charge me an arm and a leg to “let” me do my banking with them.

So, what would you have done if you had moved here? Do you have a choice where you live? Is it worth it to you to pay a sizable monthly fee to bank at a small local bank rather than a bigger one? Where do you bank and why? Let me know in the comments!


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Comments (25)

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  1. We are currently in the process of moving from Chase (10 year customer) to ING. Granted that we are moving overseas, which makes the decision to go to an online bank that much easier!

    I’m absolutely amazed that none of your local banks have any sort of programs to allow you free checking. It seems almost absurd!

  2. Clever Dude says:

    I’ve stuck with BofA for the same reasons, but at least there are branches within 2 miles of my house here in MD. Their online billpay has me hooked, and until ING Direct offers eBilling, BofA will be my bank.

  3. David says:

    I agree Clever Dude, ING needs eBilling in order to compete.

  4. As an employee of one of the brick and mortar banks I thank you for sticking with the big ones. Don’t let them get you with fees, big banks should respect their customers too.

    Since I am an employee I am sticking with my employer for basic banking needs, but ING does hold most of my cash. After I get married I’ll merge me accounts with my wife and use BofA and have access to their Premier group which gets better CS.

  5. Clever Dude says:

    I guess I should add that ING holds my savings. I only have checking with Bank of America as their savings rates are horrible (as are most brick-and-mortar, hence the online banks popularity)

  6. david says:

    ING holds my savings as well. I do have a BofA savings account, but I only keep $500 in it “just in case”.

    The Weakonomist – If my local banks had the same features, I would switch right away so I could bank locally. But they don’t, so I am not!

  7. Miranda says:

    I have a BofA credit card that I’ve been happy with. We mostly bank with Key, since it is a national bank and we travel to see my parents and my husband’s parents. We do our bills and automatic withdrawals from there. For local needs, we have an account at a credit union, and we have an online savings account for our emergency fund.

  8. Cameron F says:

    Umm… No. Bank of America still sucks, and the reasons you asserted for staying don’t really fly:

    (1) Bank of America is in trouble.

    Here’s a story from today:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aQtZLKAka1CE&refer=home

    Long story short, they’re worse off than their peers.

    (2) Yodlee.

    Did you know that the Bill Pay and account management features you find at Bank of America are actually just a wrapper on a free product called yodlee? The only difference is BoA’s version is outdated, has less features, and has no customer forum.

    (3) Bank of America is raising its fees in June.

    This one’s a killer. If you have a BoA checking account that’s waiving the fees because of direct deposit, after June, you’ll need to maintain an average balance of $1500 (plus direct deposit) for the fees to continue to be waived. This is on top of all the other stupid fees BoA charges (like $2-$5 for using other’s ATMs). You can find a bank with no maintenance fees, free ATM use anywhere, and interest. (I recommend Schwabb, personally.)

  9. david says:

    Um, it doesn’t for us, but thanks for your opinion on it. I have had nothing but great experiences with them since 1995, as I mentioned. Let’s look at your points:

    1. They are, sure. They all are. But since they are not out of business, I guess they aren’t as bad as all the banks that already folded. They will stick around. Buffet even bought more of their shares. They will be fine in the long term.
    2. Yes, I do know that. But this is right in my online banking so I dont need to go to yet another site to manage my stuff and give out even more passwords. And I dont need a customer forum; I know how to use it.
    3. As I said in the post, I don’t use ATM’s. I also never have less than $1,500 in my checking account anyway, so that wouldn’t bother me at all.

    So…they might suck for what you need them to do, but they don’t for us. Thanks.

  10. norbert says:

    I’m currently in the same boat as David – checking with BofA, small savings with BofA, and ING savings.

    I’ve been a BofA customer (and prior to the takeover a Fleet Bank customer) ever since I’ve had a bank account… many, many years. I’ve never had a bad experience with them, however I wouldn’t say they’ve been extraordinary either.

    However the only reason I’m staying with BofA for checking is because of all the direct withdrawals I have set up with them – I don’t want to deal with changing all that info with my lenders.

    But once the student loans are paid off, though, I’m jumping ship to a checking with interest and no ATM fees. I’ll close all my BofA accounts (saving, checking & credit card) I think I’m going to go with USAA – cauz they’ll do my insurance and my credit card as well.

    I’m all about the one-stop shop! (BofA did my car loan and currently has my credit card – but USAA’s rewards are better.)

    I want things as simple as possible!

  11. Cameron F says:

    David, I didn’t mean to offend you here. (I am a fan of your blog!) Thing is, they’re just so awful that I had to speak up. I understand you’ve been a customer with them a long time. (So was I.) Anyway, I’m not alone in thinking they suck. For example, the family of the founders believes they suck:

    http://consumerist.com/5160273/b-of-a-heiress-says-bank-is-repulsive-run-by-idiots

    Maybe because of things like the time they started charging for “free” services:

    http://archive.slickdeals.net/showthread.php?t=406119

    Or because an independent study concluded their website has the most downtime of any major bank:

    http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9005022&intsrc=hm_list

    Or maybe classy moves like suing customers who were the victims of identity theft:

    http://consumerist.com/274708/best-of-bank-of-america

    Anyway, we can agree to disagree, but I’m happy to earn some interest on my checking account instead of giving money to this company.

  12. david says:

    The direct payments/withdrawals are yet another reason I still bank with them, everything works perfectly and I dont want to screw that up!

  13. david says:

    No offense taken – it’s just I like them and have never had an issue. I imagine that all those things that are “bad” about them could be found at nearly any bank on earth. So, who knows what is right for different people. For me, BofA works as it should.

    BTW, as an aside, my spam filter thinks you are a spammer, so you must gotten on a list somewhere. Just an FYI…

  14. I hate BOFA but I’ve stuck with them for the convenience. They have branches everywhere and billpay is really nice. What I don’t like is that they charge little fees for everything. It’s hard for me to remember what minimum balance I need to maintain and occasionally I get stuck with a fee that I have to dispute.

  15. I still have my BoA account because they really are all over America, and I’m still in the moving-around-a-lot phase of my life. Once I settle down in one area, I’ll probably switch to something else. But moving from Rochester (NY) to southern California, back, and then doing internships in the northeast means I need a bank with a lot of locations, all over the place.

  16. david says:

    I have never been charged any weird fees…yet. I guess I am pretty lucky!

  17. DJ says:

    I’m currently using a credit union for my personal and businesss accounts. I pay no fees for anything, and their online banking and free bill pay work great.

    In the past I’ve used small town banks which also provided totally free services and great personalized service.

    The only time I’ve ever had problems is when I foolishly tried using a big national bank. So, now I avoid them.

  18. david says:

    I would love to use a credit union DJ, but we dont have one here I can be a member of. If I did, I surely would use it.

  19. norbert says:

    huh. as an addendum to my last post, I just got wind of upcoming HUGE increases in interest rates with my BofA credit card.

    http://blogs.consumerreports.org/money/2009/04/bank_of_america_raising_-credit_card_rates_citibank_chase.html

    My current rate is 7.24%, as of 5/27 they’re upping it to 12.24%. That’s almost DOUBLE!

    I keep a zero balance, generally. It never exceeds around 500.00, if i do make a purchase with it. But, I’m annoyed at this. It’s really not a cool thing for BofA to be doing.

    Looks like I’ll be changing banks sooner, unfortunately.

  20. david says:

    You directly are, or it is something they might be doing to some users? Remember, there are hundreds of thousands of users, and I doubt any bank would make a change across the board. That being said, most cards are raising interest rates right now, and that includes a few of my cards outside of BofA, for sure.

  21. norbert says:

    They’re doing it to me, for sure. After reading the post from Consumer Reports that I linked to in the last comment, I contacted customer support to ask about it and they gave me the information that I just posted.

    I assume they’re doing it across the board. It’s really unfortunate and I’d encourage people to keep updated on their rates with their cards from BofA and any bank, always, but especially right now.

    oh well 🙁

  22. Lynnae says:

    I used to have a BofA credit card, but dropped them when they decided to start charging an annual fee.

    I’ve been with Washington Mutual (now Chase) for the last 15 years. Someday soon, though, I’m going to switch to Premier West, a local bank that really managed their finances well while other banks were getting into trouble. They don’t charge outrageous fees, and they have online billpay, so it’s a great solution for us.

    I don’t know what I’d do in your situation. I’m not big on fees, so I’d probably stick with BofA, too.

    Strangely enough, the financial institution that charges the most fees around here is our local credit union.

  23. david says:

    That IS pretty strange Lynnae!

  24. LinearChaos says:

    @Baker

    Not really absurd if you think about the market in such a town. In a small town with only two other banks and one credit union to worry about it is an easy way to pad your revenue. Credit unions usually have membership requirements that only a small percentage of the customer base will meet. Thus leaving two other banks to compete with.

    The bank just needs to set their fees slightly lower then the other two banks to gain most of the business in town. No need to offer free checking to draw in the customers.

    Ahh, capitalism 😛

  25. David says:

    Heather – unless it backfires and people like me keep their business somewhere else, outside of town, where banking is free. There are tons of people here who do that to avoid these ridiculous fees. 🙂

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