For Bank of America’s poorest customers, checking accounts just got more expensive

At a price.
At a price.
Image: Reuters/Brian Snyder
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Some of Bank of America’s poorest customers may have to pay a $12 monthly fee just to hold an account.

Bank of America this month eliminated its once cutting-edge eBanking program, completing a process it began in 2013. The program, first introduced in 2010, was part of an initiative to bring in customers who were amenable to a digital-only banking experience. For those who wanted IRL customer service and paper statements, the program had a $8.95 monthly fee. But this was waived for customers who agreed to not use a teller and complete all routine transactions digitally.

The new policy, which guts the free eBanking program and moves its customers to a standard Bank of America checking account (with a $12 monthly fee), has sparked unhappiness from current and previous users.The new $12 fee is waived for customers with a daily balance of at least $1,500 or at least one direct deposit of $250 a month, but many of Bank of America’s poorest customers won’t meet those requirements. A petition on that protests the change in policy has more than 45,000 signatures as of this writing.

Bank of America spokesperson Betty Riess says the fees—and waivers—are still some of the most competitive in the mainstream banking industry. “Our Core Checking account provides full access to all our financial centers, ATMs, mobile and online banking, and offers several ways to avoid a monthly fee,” she says. For example, students under 24 years old may be able to waive the $12 fee.

The company also offers a lower-priced option: the SafeBalance account has a flat $4.95-a-month fee. But it doesn’t allow overdrafts.

Since Brian Moynihan became Bank of America’s chief executive in 2010, the bank has shrunk its product offerings and reduced the number of its branches, focusing on increasing its urban presence while shuttering its less profitable, rural locations. The effort to streamline products and optimise physical presence has increased profitability and raised the company’s stock price.