Bank of America Core Checking Account Review
Bank of America is the second largest bank in the United States by assets. That means in any discussion about where you should open a bank account, Bank of America comes up.
Bank of America offers deposit accounts, loans, credit cards, and investing services. One of the accounts that is available is the Bank of America Core Checking Account, which offers a solid checking account experience with a few bells and whistles.
If you’re looking to open a new checking account, this review will tell you everything you need to know about the Bank of America Core Checking Account.
Bank of America Core Checking Account Pros & Cons
Build Savings Automatically with "Keep the Change"
Americans have trouble saving money, and it’s not hard to see why. Spending money is fun and it can be hard to keep track of your money without a strict budget. That’s why more than half of Americans couldn’t cover an unexpected $500 expense without using a credit card.
Though it’s common not to have extra savings, it’s not a good position to be in. Bank of America offers its customers a way to save a bit of extra money without even noticing. It does this through the Bank of America Keep the Change Program.
To be eligible for Keep the Change, you need to have both a Bank of America checking account and savings account. Once you sign up for Keep the Change, every debit card transaction you make will be rounded up to the next dollar. So, if you spend $2.25 on a subway fare, the purchase will be rounded up to $3. The extra 75 cents will be transferred from your checking account to your savings account.
The idea is that by automatically saving a few cents here and there, you won’t notice the money missing from your checking account. However, in the long run, the pennies saved add up to a lot in your savings account. Since your savings account earns interest, your balance can start to grow even if you don’t add to the balance.
If you struggle to build up your savings, this feature can be a handy way to force yourself to save.
Earn More Cash Back with BankAmeriDeals and Cash Back Bonuses
Bank of America offers two additional savings opportunities to its account holders.
BankAmeriDeals lets account holders save on some of their purchases. When you log in to your online account, you’ll see a list of deals that are available. These deals will come in the format of spend $X, get $Y back. So, an example of such a deal would be: spend $100 at Amazon.com and get $10 back.
All you have to do is click the button to add the deal to your debit card. The next time you shop at that retailer, you’ll automatically qualify for the deal if you meet the minimum spending requirement. If you do, you’ll see a statement credit for the amount the next month.
Like any cashback deal service, some deals are very useful while some are for less popular stores, but free money is free money. If you were going to shop at that store anyway, there’s no reason to turn down the chance to earn some cash back.
Another opportunity to earn some extra cash is available to account holders who also have a Bank of America credit card.
If you redeem your Bank of America credit card’s cash back balance as a deposit to your checking account, you’ll earn a bonus on that cash back.
Just for having a Core Checking Account, you’ll get a 10% bonus if you deposit the cash back into the account. If you’re a member of Bank of America Preferred Rewards, your bonus will be even bigger. What bonus you qualify for depends on your total balance across all Bank of America and Merrill Edge accounts.
Preferred Rewards Tiers and Benefits
- Gold: At least $20,000 in combined balances
- Platinum: At least $20,000 in combined balances
- Platinum Honors: At least $20,000 in combined balances
Bank of America Preferred Rewards
|Preferred Rewards status||Gold||Platinum||Platinum Honors|
|Money market savings||5% interest rate boost||10% interest rate boost||20% interest rate boost|
|Credit card||25% rewards bonus||50% rewards bonus||75% rewards bonus|
|ATMs||-||Up to 12 no-fee transactions at non-Bank of America ATMs per year||Unlimited no-fee transactions at non-Bank of America ATMs per year|
|Online investing||-||$0 equity and ETF trades (up to 30 per month)||$0 equity and ETF trades (up to 100 per month)|
|Client service level||Priority||Priority||Priority|
|Mortgage||$200 reduction in origination fee||$400 reduction in origination fee||$600 reduction in origination fee|
|Auto loan||0.25% interest rate discount||0.35% interest rate discount||0.50% interest rate discount|
|Select banking services||No fees||No fees||No fees|
If you have a large enough balance, every $1 in cash back you earn could be worth $1.75 if you deposit it to your Core Checking Account.
These earning bonuses can help you save a lot of money with your account.
Strong Security Features Including Debit Card Lock and Unlock
Security is an incredibly important part of any checking account and Bank of America tries to offer the best security possible. On top of the standard security features like website encryption and fraud monitoring, Bank of America lets you lock your debit card remotely.
With a credit card, if someone makes a fraudulent purchase, it’s not a huge problem. The only thing affected is your spending power on the card as the purchase takes up part of your credit limit. Your money will stay in your bank while the card issuer investigates your fraud claim.
If someone uses your debit card to make a fraudulent transaction, it’s a different story. The money is immediately deducted from your account, possibly leaving you with no way to pay your bills. It can take days for a fraud investigation to conclude, and during that time you’re left without the money that the fraudster spent.
The Bank of America Core Checking Account offers the ability to lock your debit card through your smartphone. If you notice that you’ve lost your card, just log into the app and lock it. No one will be able to use it until you unlock it. That way you don’t have to worry about unauthorized transactions.
Bank of America operates a huge ATM network across the United States so you’re unlike to ever be far from a Bank of America ATM.
You’ll never be charged a fee to use a Bank of America ATM but you will pay a fee if you use another bank’s ATM.
If you’re in the US, you’ll pay a $2.50 per transaction. If you’re outside of the country, you’ll pay a $5 fee per transaction. These fees are on top of the fees charged by the ATM’s owner.
If you use ATMs regularly, make sure you’re in an area with lots of Bank of America ATMs. Otherwise, you might want to find another account that makes it easier to avoid ATM fees.
Multiple Ways to Avoid the Steep Monthly Fee
Usually, the Bank of America charges a steep $12 monthly fee for the Core Checking Account. This fee can eat into your balance very quickly, especially since the minimum initial deposit is just $25.
There are multiple ways to avoid the fee. The fee will be waived if you meet one of these requirements:
- Be a student under the age of 24
- Receive a direct deposit of at least $250 once per statement
- Maintain a minimum daily balance of $1,500
- Be a Preferred Rewards client
If you can’t meet any of these requirements, the fee makes it hard to justify opening the account.
On top of the monthly fee and the ATM fees, the Bank of America Core Checking account charges a few other fees. You won’t run into most of them on a regular basis, but they are still good to be aware of.
The most commonly encountered is the overdraft fee. You’ll pay a $35 fee per overdraft, with a maximum of four fees charged per day. This fee also applies to charges declined due to insufficient funds.
If you sign up for overdraft transfers from your Bank of America savings account, you’ll pay a fee if that service is every used. The fee for each transfer is $12.
Other fees include:
Bank of America Core Checking Account Fees
|Monthly Maintenance Fee||$12|
|Out-of-Network ATM Fee||$2.50|
|Overdraft Protection Transfer Fee||$12|
|Deposit Item Returned||$12|
|Incoming Domestic Wire Transfer||$15|
|Incoming International Wire Transfer||$16|
Many of these fees are waived for Preferred Rewards clients.
The Bank of America Core Checking Account aims to be convenient. You can manage your account at any branch, from your phone, or your computer. You can pay bills, deposit checks, and schedule transfers, no matter where you are. Bank of America’s large ATM network also makes it easy to withdraw cash whenever you need it.
The biggest blow to the account’s convenience factor is the fees. You’ll need to be aware of the fees you might incur and work to avoid them.
Bank of America's mobile banking apps come packed with features including mobile check deposit. These are the limits that apply for that feature:
- Customers with accounts opened for fewer than 3 months: $2,500 per month
- Customers with accounts opened for 3 months or longer: $10,000 per month
- Customers in the Preferred Rewards program for the first 3 months: $25,000 per month
- Customers in the Preferred Rewards program for more than 3 months: $50,000 per month
How Does It Compare?
You have a lot of options when opening a checking account since it is the most common type of account in the US.
When you’re looking for the right checking account, don’t just go with the first one you find. Online banks, often charge lower fees and pay better rates.
Other than the fees you’ll pay and how easy it is to access your money, you should consider these factors when choosing a checking account:
- Minimum deposit
- Fee waiver requirements
- Interest rates
- ATM access
The Final Verdict
As a basic checking account from one of the biggest banks in the country, the Bank of America Core Checking is very attractive because of its access to physical branches and ATMs. It's also good for people who like to bank in person and talk to bankers to help with their accounts.
However, the fees and the lack of interest earnings are the biggest downsides. If you can bank without really needing to go to a branch, an online checking account is more beneficial to your finances. You'll avoid monthly fees without headaches and some of online checking accounts allow you to use any ATM for free, among other great benefits.