I have three accounts with B of A, personal checking, money market savings, and a small business checking account. They are all tied together in the "Advantage" package, which means that there are reduced or no fees, such as no maintenance fee for the small business checking account (or at least, there isn't supposed to be one - more on that later). To keep the Advantage status, I have to maintain a minimum combined balance and all that, and to stay current on my accounts. I do both of those things quite well, thank you.
So a few months ago, I sent out some checks to some subcontractors that do work for me on a regular basis. Normally, I hand them the checks at the job site, but sometimes I mail them. Then I got a call from one of the guys a few weeks later indicating that he hadn't received his check. He offered that maybe it was because he had moved (!) and I didn't have the new address. It had been long enough since sending the check to realize that it had not been forwarded to him. So I issued him a new check and went to the BofA web site to look into putting a "stop payment" on the original check. Before stopping the payment, I wanted to know what the fee was, so I looked it up on their schedule of fees.
Note that under "Miscellaneous" there is the stop payment fee of $28. However, in the far right, there is the column for what accounts would qualify for a waiver of this fee. Included there, "Advantage" is listed. OK, so based on this, I figured that there would not be a fee to stop payment, since I'm an Advantage customer and all my accounts are linked. I went ahead and submitted for a stop payment, and entered the check number and the amount on the B of A site. Part of this process is selecting a reason for the stop payment. One of those options is "lost or stolen". That is what I selected.
I'm sure you can guess what happened. But before we get there, let me say that in general, I watch every statement like a hawk since B of A is so sneaky about sticking fees in there. So I checked the account online for several days and did not see any fees. All set, then! But no, in the mail came a letter showing the fee of $28 as having been applied to the account for the stop payment.
I immediately called the B of A customer service line to complain about this and let them know that this went against their own schedule of fees. I got through to a customer service rep and told her the story. She informed me that although my accounts were linked under the "Advantage" plan, that my small business checking account was actually not an "Advantage" account, thus the fee was charged. I raised hell about this (in a polite way) and explained that it just did not make sense, since the monthly maintenance fee was waived for this account under the "Advantage" plan. She explained again that, although this was true, a stop payment fee on the business account did not qualify for a waiver under this plan.
Needless to say, I remained calm but very firm in my determination to get rid of that fee. I kept pressing her to see that B of A's logic on this point was flawed. Then she mentioned that "if the stop payment had been for the reason that the check was lost or stolen, then there was no fee." I explained to her that yes, indeed, the check was lost because of my subcontractor's change of address, and that it was reported as such from the beginning when I submitted the request. She agreed to waive the fee.
Incredible, no? I was fairly upset by having to waste my time to deal with this crap. But happy that I had done so, and gotten rid of the fee that I should never have been charged in the first place. Just imagine the hell I'd have gone through if, because of that fee, my account had NSF to cover another check!!! And it would have been B of A's fault from the beginning!!
OK so on to the aforementioned issue of the monthly maintenance fee on the small business checking account. If this account were not linked to my personal accounts in the "Advantage" package, I would have to pay a $19 monthly maintenance fee. Of course this is absurdly high for a very small business, but since the accounts are linked, this fee is waived. However, every year since I opened the account, on the anniversary of opening the account, the waiver is dropped and the fee shows up again on the next statement. So, I have to wait and see the fee on the February statement, call customer service, explain to them that my accounts are linked under "Advantage" and that the fee is to be waived. They apologize, re-start the waiver, and life goes on. But here's the funny part. Each time I have done that (three times so far) they have assured me that THIS time, they put a lifetime waiver on it. Ha ha ha. I know now, for a fact, that next February, the fee will be re-instated again, despite that my accounts are in good order, meeting the min balances, and all that.
Here's the bottom line and I'm sure it is not a surprise to anyone dealing with B of A. They LIVE off of these fees, and they have many many ways to trying to stick you with them. Yes, many fees can be avoided by simply managing your accounts properly and leaving a margin of safety to keep from getting NSF, for instance. But these two examples above show clearly that they will charge you fees NO MATTER WHAT and then to correct these errors that THEY made, individuals must give up some of their time to contact them and set things straight. It is not difficult to imagine that out of 100 of such fees charged "in error", only a small portion of the customers will A) notice and B) do anything about it. So B of A gets to keep the change. Multiply this by MILLIONS of accounts!!! How on earth is this legal? Why hasn't anyone set up a class action suit and nailed them for this?
Despite how clever they think they are (and clearly they do) what they are doing is flat out WRONG.
Yes, I have the option to move my accounts, and indeed I am preparing to do so. I hope to be able to find a bank that can approach their level availability locally without resorting to blatantly wrong practices such as the examples above.
Thank you for reading, and I'll be interested in your responses.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
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