Bank of America checking account review: A big bank with several options

Two friends smile as they view a Bank of America Checking account.GeImage: Two friends smile as they view a Bank of America Checking account.
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Bank of America Advantage Plus checking account at a glance

Physical locations Many — 4,000+ branches.
Getting startedSupply basic identification information and deposit a minimum of $100.
Monthly service feeMonthly maintenance fee of $12, which you can avoid by having at least one qualifying direct deposit of $250, maintaining a $1,500 minimum daily balance or being enrolled in Preferred Rewards.
Overdraft fees $10 — with up to four charges per day.
Other fees Many, including an out-of-network ATM fee, monthly maintenance fee, check image service fee and wire transfer fee.
How to deposit Cash and check deposits in branch locations and ATMs, direct deposit, mobile check deposits, external and internal transfers, Zelle transfers, wire transfers.
How to withdraw/payChecks, debit card, Zelle transfers, wire transfers, digital wallet feature.
Notable feature Keep the Change program allows you to round up a purchase to the nearest dollar and automatically transfer the difference from your checking to your savings account — or to a savings account designated for a child.

Bank of America is one of the largest banks in the country and has a vast network of retail branches and ATMs, making it a convenient option for people who like banking in person.

Bank of America offers three types of checking accounts:

  • SafeBalance: SafeBalance accounts are aimed at students looking to manage their spending. It requires a $25 minimum deposit to open and a monthly fee of $4.95, though many students can get this fee waived.    
  • Advantage Plus: Advantage Plus accounts require a $100 minimum deposit and a monthly maintenance fee of $12 that you may be able to avoid.
  • Advantage Relationship: Advantage Relationship accounts allow you to earn interest, but they come with higher monthly fees and minimum balances. It requires a $100 minimum deposit and a monthly fee of $25, which you may be able to waive if you meet certain qualifications.    

In this review, we’ll focus on the Advantage Plus account.

3 things to know about Bank of America Advantage Plus checking

1. A long list of fees

If you want to avoid fees, Bank of America probably isn’t your best choice because it charges many — including overdraft fees, which you won’t see from some other banks. However, those who meet certain deposit or daily balance requirements can escape many of Bank of America’s fees.

For example, if you want to avoid the $12 monthly fee for your Advantage Plus account, you need to have at least one qualifying direct deposit of $250 or more, or maintain a $1,500 minimum daily balance — or be enrolled in Preferred Rewards, which requires a pretty big daily balance (more on that in the next section).

Bank of America does offer an optional overdraft protection service that allows you to connect your checking account to as many as five other Bank of America accounts. Funds are then automatically withdrawn from those accounts if you have a transaction that exceeds your checking account balance.

2. Preferred Rewards program

If you maintain a combined average daily balance of $20,000 over three months in your Bank of America checking account, or in a qualifying deposit or Merrill investment account, you can qualify for the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program and avoid all banking service fees.

You can also limit or eliminate ATM fees, depending on which Preferred Rewards Program you qualify for. Put simply Preferred Rewards is most helpful for people with a lot of cash. For example, you can get unlimited fee-free ATM transactions if your average monthly balance is $100,000 or more and are enrolled in the Platinum Honors plan.

3. Useful money management tools

A Bank of America checking account comes with tools on Bank of America’s mobile app or desktop site for tracking your spending and budgeting. These include interactive charts aimed at helping you see how much you spent, and on what. Bank of America says its tools may help you identify spending trends and possibly reevaluate your financial habits.

Does Bank of America have free checking?  

Technically, no. Bank of America’s checking accounts are only “free” if you meet certain qualifications. Again, to avoid Bank of America’s Advantage Plus accounts’ $12 monthly maintenance fee, you’ll have to meet one of several requirements, such as maintaining a $1,500 daily minimum balance.

Not sure if Bank of America is right for you? Consider these alternatives.

  • Chase: Chase is worth considering if you prefer a big bank and you want plenty of brick-and-mortar locations to bank at.
  • Ally: Ally Bank is worth considering if you don’t mind an online bank and want an interest-bearing checking account.

About the author: Adam Carpenter is a financial and tech solutions writer with a keen interest in cutting-edge insurance products. His work has been featured in Forbes and in the ebooks and websites of many tech, financial, and insuran… Read more.