Thursday, September 13, 2007

Open Letter to the Bank of America

Dear Bank of America,

You disappoint me.

I've been a customer since my junior year of college, when US Bank decided that holding a check I needed to pay my rent for ransom for three weeks was a good idea. You've treated me pretty well, Bank of America. You give me free student checking even though I am no longer a student. You have many convenient locations. Most of all, Bank of America, you provide the wonders of an online financial aggregator, where I can see all of my accounts (even the accounts not with you!) in one place. I appreciate that, Bank of America. I really do.

But this $3 ATM fee is bullshit. Excuse my language. That plus the out-of-network ATM's fee means that I would pay close to $5 to access my very own money. Money that I've earned, Bank of America, and placed with you for safekeeping. It hardly seems fair.

So I'm thinking of switching to Washington Mutual. They have a location a block from my apartment, no ATM fees, and a high-yield savings account with instant transfers. Bank of America, this might be it for you and me. Consider changing your behavior. If you don't, I don't think this relationship will last much longer than it takes you to deposit my Keep the Change match.

English Major

Update: I do know that this is the ATM fee for non-customers to use B of A ATMs (though I did miss it on first reading). I'm still irked, though, because basically this means that B of A has no institutional objection to a $3 fee, and I think it's a harbinger of fees to come for customers. Currently, B of A charges a $2 "foreign ATM" fee, which is what they used to charge non-customers to use their ATMs. Because of the previous parity in the fee structure, I think there's reason for customers to expect an increase as well--I can't actually tell you that there hasn't been one already, since I haven't used an out-of-network ATM lately.


Mya Moola said...

The $3 fee will only apply to non-customers..

Anne B. said...

I recently ditched BoA for the same reason, and had almost the same previous experience with them up until I noticed those charges. In PA, TDBankNorth has a program that promises no ATM fees ever, anywhere. Even if the ATM you're at charges a fee they will reimburse you for it at the end of the month. I love it. Their online system isn't as grad as BoA's, but it's getting there and I'm pretty pleased.

Anonymous said...

Hi -

I am a closet reader of your blog and generally keep silent, but I must provide moral support for your decision.

I switched from BofA to WaMu for many reasons. And - the grass is very much greener - I think the people are even nicer - really nice. Not fake nice.

WIth respec to the fees, I was being charged upwards of $30/month by BofA for my various accounts - my business account was $15/month just for it to exist - at WaMu, its free - really free. plus, free checks. My accounts at Wamu? All free - and I can have as many as I want - all with free checks - I don't remember about the atm fees, but something gets credited to my account shortly after I use an ATM, so it might be free. Plus, they don't hold checks, they give out free suckers at the drive in and the offices here in Texas have an open - non-secretive format that makes you feel less anxious about your entire banking experience.

I had actually been a BofA customer since it was Nationsbank - from high school - I ad at least 11 or 12 automatic debits withdrawn every month - it was a huge deal for me to leave, but I just couldn't take it anymore - it was literally hours of my life spent in fees and weird customer service.

I actually have lots more to say, but just know that the grass is greener on the WaMu side - I even bought some shares of stock in them after about a year or so because I was tickled with what I could get there.

finance girl said...

I am with BofA but have had pretty good far...but...I only use BofA sanctioned ATMs anyway...

I have a heck of a time with my user name and password though.

Hubs and I have joint accounts, and when I closed one of the checking accounts (for the rental house) they removed my user name and password!


Michael said...

Bank of Unfairica recently charged a friend of mine $3.00 for putting a cancelled check in an envelope and mailing it to her. One check. And the other check she wrote was not put in the envelope. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

WaMu rocks. Seriously. And thank you for telling me they had a high interest account, I've been meaning to get one of those but I neeeeed instant access to my money!

Strange Bird said...

I have only a credit card with them since they bought MBNA... and I have hated every interaction with them since. Little by little, they removed every feature I liked about the MBNA card (except the points). I opened a Chase card last month so I could stop doing business with BofA.

Ms. M&P said...

I bank at BoA, and I've had the same concerns. The fees are ridiculous and they don't easily offer interest baring accounts. So, I'll probably be closing my accounts with them in the near future as well. It sucks to change banks when you have so many automatic withdrawals and deposits in place...I hope you keep us posted on what you decide to do!

Anonymous said...

You're obviously a Bank of America this applies to you how? It's only for non-customers...and nobody's putting a gun to their head and making them use BofA's ATM's instead of their own bank's. Besides, have you seen how much more advanced and high tech BofA's ATM's are? I have accounts at Wachovia and HSBC and they are in the dark ages compared to BofA's, which accept cash and checks without bothering with envelopes. This open letter is pretty silly.

Green Panda said...

I totally agree with you. Bank of America is hitting people hard with these fees. We moved our joint account from there to ING Direct and haven't had a problem.

dong said...

I'm ok with $3 fee - I mean why should Bank of America customers subsidize other bank customers. It costs money to built out a ATM network. If anything by choosing to charge non-customers, Bank of American probably benefits it's own customers.

Marcus said...

I use a credit union and I have free ATM access with any ATM on the STAR® Network. Just visit and enter your zip code to find where the ATMs are in your area.

Then find out which banks/credit unions in your area are connected to the STAR® Network and offer free ATM access. (P.S. Bank of America is on the STAR® Network, not sure why they don't offer free ATM access)

Mrs. Micah said...

What's saddest is that people are going to still use the ATMs. That is, non-customers. My boss was despairing of her husband, because he never remembers to get money and then he's at the mercy of the nearest ATM.

The $2 non-network is particularly bad. I have to do mine non-network because my bank is more local (though I'm about to switch to Wachovia). I just don't use ATMs.

Anonymous said...

@ the anonymous closet reader who enjoys the green grasses of WaMu:

The do hold checks. They grant you immediate access to the first $100 of any deposit, and it takes three business days for the rest to be deposited in your account. If the deposited check is over $5000, then anything over $5000 is held for 8 business days. This has been a big pain for me this week, but overall I'm quite pleased with WaMu.

I might have more problems if I didn't know the proper way to use their toll-free number. Follow the prompts as if you want to open a new CD. If you say you are an existing customer, it takes much longer (you have to enter in your account number and are on hold for longer, and then reconfirm who you are anyway once you get to a person) AND if you call after business hours, you can't reach a person. Unless you follow the prompts for opening a new CD.

And my last piece of WaMu wisdom is that not all customer service agents are created equally. Some actually have no idea what they are talking about and will tell you things that are completely false. Call back to check in with another agent if something sounds fishy to you.

Hope that helps someone. Really, WaMu has been better than any bank I've had so far, even some smaller community banks.

dave said...

I agree with Marcus: the grass in greener on the CU side of things. Not only are they not-for-profit, democratically-controlled financial institutions, but many credit unions are community-based, meaning anyone can join them.

My credit union features no-surcharge ATMs, meaning they don't charge non-members a thing to use their ATMs. Now THAT'S a cool financial philosophy. Unfortunately, many non-members get hit when their bank charges them a fee for a non-network ATM transaction. It's all greed BS.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I am in the minority with my opinions but I really like BOA. I've been a customer for about 7 yrs and have never had a problem. I think alot of it has to do with who you interact with at the bank. Luckily, I have had nothing but good service.

Amy said...

Three(of several) gripes I have with Bank of America:

-I once tried to transfer some money from my BA account to my Washington Mutual account. I guess that there is a limit on how much you can transfer at a time, and they don't make a point of telling you that (except by a fee after the fact). When I clicked submit, BA knew I was going over the limit but didn't say hey you can't do this because it's over the limit. They just let me do it then they charged me for it.

-I wanted to transfer money from my BA account to my WM account (I'm in the process of having WM be my sole account) and I asked the clerk how much it would be to have a cashier's check printed. She said it would be $6. At WM, they are free (perhaps there's some sort of annual limit, but one or two a year is more than enough for me). I couldn't believe it. I had never in the year I was with BA had a cashier's check and they're going to charge me for one? That's ridiculous.

-Reason number three: The reason I joined BA was because they offered me $50 for signing up. Well, five months after signing up they sent me a letter saying there was an error and I had to call the branch where I opened my account and tell them. I did, and they basically told me they don't know what I'm talking about and said have a nice day. I should have pursued it, but I didn't.

Anonymous said...

I only use BOA to cash my student loan refund check. They used to do it no problemo since it's a check drawn on that bank. Now they give me a hard time. I tell them I've been doing this for years but they tell me they prefer to cash them only if I have an account.

My local branch seems to have resorted to using shady temps. When I went in there, this teller got all flustered and took 20 min to get the $$. Then she tried to stuff it in an envelope w/o counting it. I asked her if she was gonna count it and she rolled her eyes...long story short, she tried to screw me out of several hundred dollars. Not very professional.

I also used to use a credit union down the street that cashed a direct deposit slip. DUH! Once they called me up and asked me if they had given me $20 more than they were suposed to. And the kicker, my ex set up an acct. for me to stick my rent contributions into. He didn't check it for 6 mo. And because he didn't trust me for some odd reason, didn't put my name on the acct. When I made a deposit they would black out the acct #. A total $3,000 was deposited into someone else's acct who just happened to have the same name. B/c the recipts were blacked out, there was no way to tell. Serves him right...

Anonymous said...

I had a home equity line of credit with BoA for 15 years. I did not get the heloc from BoA originally. They bought it from my original bank and started charging me twice the annual fee. It is now up and I will not be renewing because of their new policy of doing business with illegal immigrants.

Anonymous said...

Gawd, I am SO glad I don't have to deal with this type of bullshit anymore. I switched to USAA for my banking. How I wish I had done it much sooner. I realize that not everyone has this option, but I urge all who do to snap up the opportunity. You can become a life-long member if you're military, just out of the military, or if your parent is/was a member.

Here's what I get:

Incredible, gobsmackingly polite and knowledgeable customer service from live human beings who speak English
Totally free checking
Free checks
Free postage-paid mail-in deposit slips
4.83% interest on my primary savings
Multiple savings account possibilities
Free online checking/bill pay
Free and instant balance transfers between my accounts
Free overdraft protection among my accounts
Debit card
Up to $10 in ATM rebates each month if I need to use another bank's ATMs (they have none of their own)
One-stop shopping for banking, home and auto insurance, and credit cards - everything available online in one location

In other words, it's totally free banking. I've never paid them a cent for all the services they provide me with (other than insurance, of course). Even if it cost me, I'd stay with them just because I never have trouble getting through to a well-trained and genuinely helpful employee. I could go on at great(er) length about how happy I am with USAA.

I can't imagine having to deal with the living hell of WF or BofA anymore. I'm a former customer of both of them. They make my skin crawl.

Kim said...

My husband will never stay at a bank for very long. When there is trouble he leaves. Period. Except for the strange case of his accounts with Academy Bank, affiliated in some way with Air Academy Bank.

Despite outrageous hold periods, strangely, some of them retroactively enforced, Despite their incredibly ridiculous fees and that the banker he prefers is located inside a Wal-Mart (!) and is terribly inconvenient often with long lines, he has stayed with them longer than anyone. I absolutely cannot stand this bank. Even deposits of cashiers checks have been put on hold.

He also has an account at TCF bank, due to the convenient location and hours, but they returned a check he wrote to my parents, even though the funds were in the account and the check deposited into the account with both names on the check. They have not made it right after two weeks, even though it cost them near $200 in fees at their bank.

That is the other thing. The parents bank at US Bank. IF you make a mistake and get overdrawn, or have a check returned like this one, the fees are $30+ per check and fees for each day you don't fix it. So for people on a fixed income (like my parents, living on social security) they are penalized hugely for any mistake.

Overall, I am not impressed with banks. Why are there fees for Online Bill Pay? It does not cost them any more to process these payments than to process a regular check written on my account.

Over the years, services such as ATMs and online banking have reduced the need for in person transactions which should be saving banks in labor. Do I see the benefits of these savings? No, they become a profit center for the bank.

It is as if the grocery store were to charge me a convenience fee for using their U-Scan registers.

SavingWithMe said...

The $3 fee is outrageous at this point. There are quite a few banks/credit unions out there now offering reiumbursement of ATM fees. I use USAA and they have been refunding external ATM fees for some time now.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand your objection to the fee hike. The fee benefits BofA customers by discouraging non-BofA account holders from using their ATMs and creating longer lines.

Chitown said...

I love WAMU and the customer service is excellent.

I am a BoA customer as well but $3 is excessive.

Ms. Adventures in Mexico said...

Well, the money sitting in the ATM is not being used, invested or anything, and the bank is a business, so they have to earn money somehow.

That said, I also have a credit union accont that I LOVE, but it really inconvenient to access for cash. I have a savings account with ATM access with BoA, which I keep a few thousand dollars in, which means I can pull out some cash when I need it and not worry about fees (since the BoA ATMs are pretty convenient for me), and make some interest on the side, and use the Credit Union for my bigger electronic transactions (hello, online banking and direct deposit, match made in heaven)

Also, since I am now living in a foreign country, I find that I can access my BoA account and pull out money (in pesos!) from an ATM here, at an affiliate bank, with no fees from either BoA or the affiliate bank. So while BoA may not be the best bank for everyone, it works for me.

Finally, if you are getting socked with fees, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE. There are tons of banks that will work with YOUR financial lifestyle. I'm not thrilled with BoA's customer service either, but since I deal with them so little, it is worth it to me. The international access and the convenient locations are more important to me. Take an hour and do some comparisons online at the banks between your work and home, or wherever you go often, and see what is the best for YOU! And if you are always pulling money out of non-member ATMs, instead of complaining about the fees, why not try planning a little better, having cash on hand, or using a credit/debit card, or driving the extra 2 minutes to the BoA ATM?

PiggyBankBlues said...

wow, people really got venomous over your opinion on atm fees?! i wonder what bank they work for...

i, for one, loved your open letter. it was laugh-out-loud hilarious and made my day. thanks!

Pile of Nonsense said...

I think raising ATM fees is the easiest way for a bank to create bad will. I'm glad BofA is taking advantage of this easy opportunity.

When I first moved a few years ago, my (only) checking account was at a bank (Southtrust) which did not exist in my new state. No ATMs, and I had real heartache with paying ATM fees, so I called Southtrust, and they told me the best trick to dodge ATMs altogether.

You need a checkcard -- an ATM card with a credit card logo on it. Take it into any bank that happens to be open. Request an advance on a line of credit for however much cash you want. Usually, the tellers will have to get a manager or someone else from the back (I'm not sure how the personnel at banks are organized, but the first person always has had to call for help). It will take 5 or 10 minutes, and you'll have to fill out a small form, so you'll want to take out larger chunks of cash so you don't have to do it every day, but the $300 ATM limit most banks seem to have doesn't apply here. Best, there are no fees involved from either the bank you're in or your home bank.

It's not an ideal solution, because it's slow, it can only be done during business hours, and you have to consider every time whether it's worth 10 minutes to dodge paying $5 worth of fees. But it gets the job done.

Anonymous said...

the comments left here are proof that BofA's policies are working (for the bank!). if you look at their financials over the last couple of years, they are continually improving. driven in good part by their move to more fee-based transactions. this is a profit model that is aiding BofA's bottom line immensely. if you don't want to drive BofA's profit numbers, then do what I and several posters here have done -- switch to WaMU. love their service, although the online bill pay interface isn't quite as good as BofA's. Biggest advantage. NO nuisance fees!!

Anonymous said...

I went to my BofA ATM at 10 PM last night (Sunday) to make a deposit. Silly me. During banking hours, I'm busy earning my money. I discovered the new ATMs. The bank did nothing to prepare me for this change. I can't just put an envelope full of cash and checks into the deposit slot any more. I had to stand there for an hour, in the cold and wind, with $3,000 in cash and checks in my hand, as the ATM scanned each check and bill. I gave up before half the money was deposited. I had to deposit some of it so checks would not bounce the next day, and so I could pay bills.

The bank does not consider me a sufficiently important customer to use the night depository. I guess now I'll have to itemize every check on a deposit slip and make deposits during banking hours. If they charge me for a teller transaction, it won't surprise me a bit. I hate them SO much!

I wonder if these new machines scan currency slowly ON PURPOSE because the bank doesn't want to be bothered with processing small cash deposits.

I wonder if BofA wants to make data entry -- for deposits -- exclusively the responsibility of the customer. If so, that will save the bank a whole lot of money. The savings will be passed on to me, the customer, right? Hah!

I wonder what will happen if a customer makes an innocent mistake when entering the amount of a deposit at one of the new ATMs? I expect they will charge the customer an absurdly large fee and maybe tie up the money for a long time. They already charge customers absurdly large fees for other small, innocent errors. I understand those fees are an important source of revenue for Bof A.

In my opinion, if you are a "small" customer, BofA hates you. They want you to do business elsewhere. They want to pick the profitable low-hanging fruit. You aren't it.

Anonymous said...

Part two of my story regarding deposits in the new ATMS...

I tried calling customer service on the telephone. Big mistake. Menu after menu, item after item, none of which offer to connect you with a human being. Some of the menus try to sell you ripoff services. After pushing many buttons, I pushed zero at the right time, pretty much by accident and ended up getting connected to a human being... Except a recording told me the call center was closed.

I went to another BofA branch the following morning. It still has the older ATMs. Maybe I can make my after hours deposits there... Will they retain the older ATMs? No one knows. No one cares. No one in the entire building! There must be 40 employees in the building. Everyone is annoyed by the inconvenience I am causing by asking.

I complain about the problems caused by the new ATMs. No one cares. I inquire about the best way to make deposits after hours in the future. No one knows. No one cares. Everyone is annoyed by my questions.

Can I start using the night depository? No one seems to know. Everyone is guessing. A teller guesses, "Well, I think you have to be a business..." I reply, "I'm self employed. I deposit about $100,000 per year. Does that make me a business?" She replies, with impatience, "No. A business if like Wal-Mart."

It seems Bank of America hates me and hates you, unless you're Wal-Mart, apparently. Changing banks is going to be a big hassle. I've got my electronic banking set up with BofA, other banks have fewer locations and ATMs, I have several accounts. Lotsa headaches.

Nevertheless, I'm on my way to WaMu. Others on this site seem to like them. They financed my home, offering me better terms and rates than BofA, and they are very easy to deal with if I have problems or questions.

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