Make us your home page
Instagram

Checking account fees to be tested by Bank of America

NEW YORK — Bank of America is rolling out a pilot program in three states that will offer its customers a menu of checking accounts with a variety of fee options.

The nation's largest bank, which does business with half the households in America, is testing in Georgia, Massachusetts and Arizona its plans to offer customers a choice of how they pay for their accounts. The test includes ways to avoid fees by linking multiple accounts, credit cards and even investment accounts with its Merrill Lynch unit. The three states represent about 10 percent of Bank of America's consumer business. The remaining states where the bank does business will likely be brought into the program next year.

The aim is to make fees clearer for customers, while encouraging them to bring more of their financial activity under the Bank of America umbrella.

"We are trying to provide you choices on how you compensate us," said Joe L. Price, president of the company's consumer and small business banking division.

The pilot program is the latest in a series of moves by big banks that signal the end of free checking accounts, a mainstay in consumer banking for the past two decades. Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase have also introduced account lists with various fees attached — and options for increasing banking activity or choosing less expensive ways to bank as a way to avoid those fees.

It's all part of the new landscape for banking, brought on by restrictions enacted in the past two years on overdraft fees, credit card charges and other lucrative revenue sources for banks.

"There are real costs with serving a customer with a checking account," said Bart Narter, a banking analyst with the consultant firm Celent. The expense of paying tellers or printing and mailing statements don't go away for a huge bank like Bank of America, he said, although some costs may be lower per customer than smaller banks.

By offering a lineup of products, Price said, the bank allows customers to choose how to compensate the bank for their services.

"We hear customers tell us they want more control," he said. "They want to pick their own destiny."

Bank of America said the monthly fees in the pilot will be $6, $9, $12, $15 and $25, depending on the type of account and level of service that comes with it. Bank representatives declined to be more specific about what fees are attached to each account, stating it is testing different fees in the three states.

There is a benefit for consumers in the ability to gauge which product is right for them, said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst with Bankrate.com.

"There's a way to avoid fees, and there's a few different roads to get from here to there," he said. "You either know the fee you're going to pay, or you know that there's an alternative to avoid it."

Banking options

Bank of America's new account choices, which it is testing in three states, will have four tiers:

• The most basic account, called Bank of America Essentials, offers a single checking account with a debit card. This account has no minimum deposit required and will come with a monthly fee attached.

• The eBanking account has a single checking account with a debit card, but gives customers a choice to avoid the monthly fee by avoiding tellers and getting e-mailed statements. Currently, the fee for paper statements or using a teller is $8.95 per month.

• Bank of America Enhanced has a monthly fee if the customer doesn't maintain a $2,000 balance in a linked account or a combined $5,000 balance across accounts. It will offer links with up to four accounts — two checking and two savings or money market accounts.

• Premium requires a minimum balance of $20,000 in linked accounts or certain Merrill Lynch investment accounts, or a Bank of America mortgage, to avoid monthly fees. Certain banking services, like money orders, cashier's checks and check printing are free.

• For customers with combined balances of $50,000 or more and a checking or Merrill account, the bank is creating Platinum Privileges, a rewards program that provides specialized customer service, special rates on mortgages, certificates of deposit and money market accounts and a designated Privileges credit card with high-end perks like concierge service.

Checking account fees to be tested by Bank of America 01/06/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Home of Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman hits market at $3.45 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is back on the market for $3.45 million after a brief hiatus.

    The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is on the market for $3.45 million. [Courtesy of Hi Res Media]
  2. Trigaux: Halfway through 2017, a closer look at six drivers of the Tampa Bay economy

    Business

    We're nearly halfway through 2017 already, a perfect time to step back from the daily grind of business and ask: How's Tampa Bay's economy doing?

    Is there one theme or idea that captures the Tampa Bay brand? Not really but here's one possibility. The fun-loving annual Gasparilla "Invasion" of Tampa is captured in this photo of 
The Jose Gasparilla loaded with pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla on its way this past January to the Tampa Convention Center. In the future a vibrant downtown Tampa or St. Petersburg may be the better theme. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Will new laws protect condo owners from apartment conversions and rogue associations?

    Real Estate

    Danny Di Nicolantonio has lived in St. Petersburg's Calais Village Condominums for 33 years. Annoyed at times by the actions, or inaction, of the condo board and property managers, he has complained to the state agency that is supposed to investigate.

    That has left him even more annoyed.

    A bill passed by the Florida Legislature would affect places like The Slade in Tampa's Channelside district, where condominium owners have battled a plan to convert homes into apartments.
[Times file photo]
  4. Walmart opens first Pinellas County in-house training academy

    Retail

    Seminole — It had all the hallmarks of a typical graduation: robe-clad graduates marching in to Pomp and Circumstance, friends and family packed together under a sweltering tent and a lineup of speakers encouraging the graduates to take charge of their future.

    New Walmart Academy graduates are congratulated Thursday morning by associates during a graduation ceremony at the Walmart store, 10237 Bay Pines Boulevard, St. Petersburg. The Walmart location is one of the company's training academies where managers complete a one week retail course. David Shultz and Richard Sheehan, both from St. Petersburg, get high fives from the crowd.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  5. Lawsuit: Florida contractor fakes death to dodge angry homeowners

    Human Interest

    SEMINOLE — For weeks, Glenn Holland, 67, crawled out of bed before the sun rose to look for a dead man.

    Last year Glenn and Judith Holland said they paid a contractor thousands of dollars to renovate their future retirement home in Seminole. But when they tried to move in on Dec. 14, they said the home was in shambles and uninhabitable. They sent a text message to contractor Marc Anthony Perez at 12:36 p.m. looking for answers. Fourteen minutes later, they got back this text: "This is Marc's daughter, dad passed away on the 7th of December in a car accident. Sorry." Turns out Perez was still alive. Now the Hollands are suing him in Pinellas-Pasco circuit court. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]