Bank of America: Squeezing Newton Dry

I used to be a customer of BayBank. Remember BayBank? They had a cute little branch in West Newton Square, at the corner of Washington and Chestnut streets. I started going there in the early 1970s, when my mom helped me open my first savings account. I kept the account open through college, and into the early 1990s.

The Bank of Boston came along. OK, I could live with that. A little more corporate (remember the name change to BankBoston?) but still relatively local.

Then a few years later, Fleet took over. Corporate attitude, corporate nickel and diming, and, thanks to its near monopoly on state-wide banking, a "take it or leave it" treatment of people who didn't like the fees, minimum balance levels to waive fees, and other restrictions. A lot of people cried "monopoly", but the state's politicians sat right back and let it go through.

I left. Went to Citizens in Newton Corner in 2000, when they were still friendly, but dropped them two years later after more fees and they telephoned my house attempting to sell annuities to me (I was in my early 30s!). I went with a true local bank, Wainwright, which I was very happy with for a few years, but had to drop them earlier this year when I changed jobs and found they didn't have any branches near where I worked, or where I lived. That's generally a problem with really local banks, they are scattered across a few towns but if you go too far afield for housing or your job, it suddenly becomes a pain to go to the bank, and you get hit with ATM fees.

Anyway, to the main point of this point. Bank of America -- the same bank which started the ATM fee craze five years ago, and took over Fleet last year (laying off a bunch of low-level workers in the process), has a merciless attitude when it comes to overdraft fees, says the Boston Globe. $19 a pop, and they won't cut you a break. According to the Globe article by Sasha Talcott:

Overdraft fees are an important source of revenue for banks. In the last two years, the region's two dominant banks, Bank of America and Citizens Financial Group, have introduced "free checking" accounts, joining other banks that already offered free accounts. But free checking is not always free for customers: The banks profit from those accounts by charging customers overdraft fees, bank consultants say, while they also earn money on debit cards.

Another source in the article says on average, customers overdraw 3.4 times per year. Do the math ... tens of millions of "free checking" customers, overdrafts three or four times per year, $19 per time.

Are you still a Bank of America customer? I know they now occupy that cozy little branch in West Newton, and in a few other places in the Garden City. If you are one of the customers there, you might want to consider some of the other local alternatives in Newton. Some are real community banks, and treat their customers a lot better than this.


Anonymous Kristine said...

I lived in Watertown Square before moving to West Newton Square, and I opened an account at Wainwright. I love them -- and even though they're not as convenient as the Citzens Banks and Bank of Americas, I wouldn't trade 'em for the world.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked at Fleet with top "Chief Officers." I was not a "low level worker."
Thousands were let go on all levels.

My exit was preceded by my stance on ethical procedures within the bank. I was told they didn't like "my aggressive style."

This after commercial customers were logging into other commercial customers accounts by accident with the ability to write checks.

Fleet was advised by me that their software was NOT SECURE however they were in the process of selling the bank to BofA so they weren't about to jeopardize this sale.

The same software is in place at Bank of America.

7:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buyer (or customer, in this case) beware. You signed a document stated you'd pay the overdraft fee when you signed up for your account or agreed to continue using BofA when the merger occurred. I can only tell you that with all of the local banks in this area (and Massachusetts in general has a lot more small savings-and-loan type banks around still, than many other areas of the country), you have many choices as a consumer and you should research those other choices and cease using BofA. With everything comes a price, especially the convenience of having a BofA ATM on every corner. I'm sure you can find an alternative...or maybe you could just ensure you have enough of a buffer in your checking account each month that overdraft will never be an issue? I understand the frustration with BofA and more and more the smaller banks are getting squeezed out but overdraft fees should be the least of your concerns.

10:54 AM  

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