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Bank of America Savings Account 2020 Review

| Money Rates Columnist.

bank-of-america-savingsBank of America (BofA) is one of America's largest networks of brick-and-mortar-branch banks, but it has a strong online presence as well and offers one of the widest ranges of banking products and services in America.

BofA offers savings account interest rates comparable with other brick-and-mortar banks, which are lower than rates offered by many online banks and credit unions - but it offers more options than almost any other financial institution.


Bank of America Savings Account Essentials

Here's an overview of important features Bank of America has to offer:

  • "Keep the Change" program adds amounts to your savings automatically by rounding up purchases on linked cards
  • Manage account from mobile app
  • $100 minimum opening deposit
  • Low monthly service fee, which can be waived by meeting certain requirements
  • Access to more than 16,000 BofA ATMs and more than 5,000 branches in America
  • Automatic linking with Merrill Lynch, one of America's largest brokerages
  • Can be used as overdraft protection for other linked BofA accounts
  • Tiered savings rates available (though currently all balances earn the same)

If you're interested to learn more, this review is designed to help. Continue on to get the full rundown on BofA's savings account offerings.


MoneyRates Editor's Analysis: Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Bank of America is one of the largest and most stable banks, with thousands of branches and ATMs across America
  • BofA's "Keep the Change" program offers a painless way to save money
  • When linked with other BofA accounts, your savings account can serve as overdraft protection
  • Linking of Merrill Lynch adds many other wealth-building alternatives

Cons

  • Their interest rate is higher than many traditional banks, but still among the lowest in the industry.

Bank of America Savings Account Rates

One of the main purposes of opening a savings account is increasing your net worth by earning interest on your savings.

Like other traditional banks, Bank of America offers interest rates on their savings accounts that are on the low side, though slightly higher than its competitors. Although that rate goes up once you become a Preferred Awards client. The lowest level (Gold) begins with $20,000 on deposit across all linked accounts, and offers a rate of 0.04%. The highest APY rate is .06% for their Platinum Tier.

BofA offers two tiers for interest rates, one for savings under $2,500 and another for higher balances. However, as of this writing, there's no difference.

Compared to the national average, the rates are on the low side. On the positive side, it does keep things simple.

For better rates, consider an online bank or credit union. Regularly check the boxes to the right that shows some of the higher interest rates available today. It is continually updated, so you can bookmark this page and come back any time to see what the best rates are.


Bank of America Savings Account Fees

Brick-and-mortar banks usually charge a monthly maintenance fee for savings accounts. Fortunately, the fee is usually low and most of the time there are several ways to eliminate it.

BofA charges an $8 per month fee on their basic savings accounts, and that's enough to cancel out the interest earned on typical savings balances.

You can avoid the fee by doing one of the following:

  • Maintain a minimum account balance of $500.
  • Link your savings account to your Bank of America Advantage Relationship Banking account (the waiver applies to first 4 savings accounts)
  • Become a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client (waiver applies to first 4 checking and savings accounts). Qualification for the Preferred Rewards program tiers is based on having an active Bank of America personal checking account and maintaining a three-month average combined balance across your Bank of America accounts. Gold tier status requires a minimum combined balance of $20,000 while Platinum status requires $50,000 and Platinum Honors requires $100,000.
  • Prove that you are a qualifying student under 24, for whom the fees are waived automatically (but only for the first six months).

Other Savings Account Fees

In addition to the monthly service fee, there are a few other fees of which to be aware.

The first is out-of-network ATM fees.

Like other major banks, BofA allows you to use other financial institutions' ATMs displaying the Visa or Mastercard symbol. That's the good news. The bad news is they will charge you an out-of-network fee of $2.50 per transaction in America, $5 per transaction overseas.

In addition, should you have a debit card linked to your Bank of America savings account and use it for a purchase overseas, you will be charged 3 percent of that purchase.

And, finally, there is another fee which is common to most financial institutions. The Federal Reserve's Regulation D limits you to six withdrawals and/or transfers from savings each month. Once you hit that withdrawal limit, BofA charges a fee of $10 for each transaction above that limit. Other financial institutions charge from $5 to $15 per withdrawal, and some might even close your account.


Additional Bank of America Account Features & Benefits

There are a few other benefits to keep in mind if you're thinking of opening a Bank of America savings account.

The first one is something we've come to take for granted: automatic FDIC insurance for amounts up to $250,000.

Further, BofA's Keep the Change program rounds up every purchase on a linked BofA checking account and deposits the difference into your Bank of America savings account, a convenient way to add to your savings.

Next is the ability to use your BofA savings account as overdraft protection. You can link your savings account to a BofA checking account. If you have a transaction which would put your checking account in the red, BofA will transfer money from your savings to your checking automatically to cover the charge.

Each transfer to avoid an overdraft costs $12.00. Still, that's better than the standard $35 overdraft fee charged for each overdraft occurrence.

If you have other BofA or Merrill Lynch accounts, you can set up automatic transfers. One of the biggest ways to grow your net worth is by regularly and automatically setting aside money to your savings and/or investing accounts.

And, finally, for high-net-worth individuals, BofA has a Private Banking service into which you can link your savings account. This service provides a personal expert banker to offer advice on investing, strategic philanthropy, grant-making and trusts/estate planning.

Accessing your account

There are multiple ways to access your Bank of America savings account:

  • You can manage your account online through BofA online banking or with the Bank of America app on your smartphone or tablet.
  • Another benefit of using BofA's online tools is the ability to set up online notifications to stay informed about important activity on your account, such as a recent deposit or a successful transfer.
  • As with some of the other major banks, their mobile app allows you to deposit checks into your Bank of America savings account from your mobile device. Choose the savings account, enter the amount, photograph the check front and back, and send.
  • BofA has more than 5,000 branches and 16,000 ATMs in America, making it one of the largest banks in the nation -- convenient for when you want to make a physical visit.
  • If you plan to use their extensive ATM network, you can get an ATM card for your savings account. Or, if you have a Bank of America checking account, you can link your savings account to your debit card and skip the extra ATM card.

Are There Other Ways to Save With Bank of America?

Yes, BofA offers a wide range of options than almost any other financial institution.

It is unique among America's most prominent banks in that it owns a full-service brokerage - Merrill Lynch, one of the world's largest. More importantly, they have made it close to seamless to move money between your Bank of America savings account and different types of investment products at Merrill Lynch.

Merrill Lynch offers specialized types of savings such as 529 college savings plans, Roth or traditional IRAs, or SEP IRAs for small businesses, to mention just a few.

Bank of America itself also offers certificates of deposit (CDs). A CD is a time deposit, meaning you have to leave your money untouched to grow for a set period of time. BofA offers two types of CD: "Standard Term" or "Featured."

A standard-term CD offers between 0.03 to 0.75 percent APY, depending on the term: from 28 days to 10 years. The minimum opening amount is $1,000.

Featured CDs are offered in terms of 13, 25 and 37 months, with rates from 0.07 to 1 percent.


How to Open a Bank of America Savings Account

Unlike a Featured CD account which requires making an appointment with a live specialist, you can open an account for your savings at Bank of America online, by phone or at a branch.

As with any financial institution, you'll need to provide a few things to get started:

  • At least $100 for the minimum deposit
  • Your social security number
  • A valid driver's license or state-issued ID number (including your your date of birth)
  • Your contact information
  • Your employment information

You'll also need the social security number and ID number for the other account owner if you're opening a joint savings account.

If you're already a BofA customer, you can sign in to your online banking account to open your savings account faster.

As part of the account-opening process, expect to be asked if you want to add an ATM card. You may also be given the option to set up an automatic savings transfer or open a BofA checking account at the same time (generally a good way to go). You will also be asked if you wish to link your savings account to your checking account, credit card or other BofA offerings (including Merrill Lynch investment products).

Once you've selected all your account options, enter the amount you want to open your account with and the details for the bank from which you are transferring the money.

If, after their disclosure of their terms and conditions, you have questions during the process, you can call BofA or use their customer-service-chat feature.


Is a Bank Of America Savings Account Right for You?

While Bank of America interest rates on their savings accounts don't set any records, there are several things to like:

Various automatic savings options, including Keep the Change, make it easy to save money and increase your net worth. And if you need to make a cash withdrawal for any reason, BofA has plenty of branches and ATMs.

Avoiding the monthly service fee isn't too difficult, especially when you consider the multitude of their linking options and Rewards program. But you may want to look at an online bank if you would rather pay no fees at all or if you're interested to earn a better rate on savings.

If you're comparing online banks to Bank of America, check the fees, interest rates and minimum-balance requirements elsewhere on this site. That way, you'll have more of the details you need to make a final decision about where to save.

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