Bank of America (BoA) was one of my first bank accounts under my name only. I got it just before I went to college; before I had a joint account with my parents. For having an account in college, I guess BoA worked out alright.
Actually, it was terrible. There were way too many fees, and it was incredibly easy to overdraft. Not the best combination when you have no money and are in college. There were a few other minor annoyances that would pop up every now and then too. The one perk was that a BoA had an ATM on my school's campus.
I've stuck with BoA for a while now, putting up with the occasional ATM fees, transfer fees, and any number of other fees I don't even care enough about to remember. But upon hearing the recent news that BoA would charge customers $5 a month for using their debit card, I decided enough was enough. This was the last straw.
My Quest for Better Banking
After spending my whole life mindlessly dedicated to one bank, I had a lot to learn about banking practices, checking accounts, common fees (well I knew a pretty good amount about this thanks to BoA), and important benefits. I really had to reevaluate what exactly I want from a bank account and which services are most important to me.
One website that really helped me determine which services are valuable to me (and which I actually had a choice over) was findabetterbank.com. It gives you a list of different banks in your area based on which features you prefer or must
Some features I hadn't even really thought about until I chose my preferences on the site. Best of all, the site would estimate your annual fees with the banks based on how you said you would use the bank accounts. Granted, most of the banks the site suggested were big national ones, each with their set of fees, features, and limitations. Still, it gave me a good idea of what standard checking and savings plans are out there.
While I did see some checking and savings accounts much more attractive than what I have with BoA, I decided to look at some more independent, local banks around my area. The Independent Community Bankers of America was an invaluable resource for this search. Particularly with their Community Bank Locator (linked above), you will see a very long list of community, independent banks in your area. I do wish that the site gave detailed information about each bank, but they do link to each bank where you can find all their information on accounts, fees, and benefits. It takes a good amount of time to do the comparison shopping, but I have found some very enticing banks in the search.
While I have yet to find the perfect bank or credit union for me, I do think that my next banking service will be a local or up and coming national one. BoA was and is far too big of a corporate giant to meet my needs as a low-income citizen. With the $5 debit card usage fee on anyone without a premium account (an account over $20,000 if I'm not mistaken), it seems that BoA's practices were not meant to benefit the little guy.