Ten Largest Banks in the U.S.

The Move Your Money campaign peaked a few weeks ago but in our household we still haven’t yet made the change from a large bank to a local community bank or credit union. Part of the reason is inertia, the center spoke in our financial network map if our Bank of America account, but we’re working on it! 🙂

As I was doing some research for some unrelated projects, I discovered a useful resource at the FDIC. I’m always a fan of mostly useless trivia (this certainly falls in that category) so I was delighted to find a list of the largest banks in the United States. The FDIC captures all of this data for FDIC insured institutions, which is great, but it’s only updated annually, so this data is from June 30, 2011.

I bet you can name most of the banks on this list but I’d be surprised if you could name them all.

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Bank of America Cancels Debit Fee, I’m Still Leaving

Bank of America ATMsBank of America has backed out of its plan to charge a $5 per month debit card fee to its customers. It follows several other banks who have announced new fees only to back off them a short time later.

“We have listened to our customers very closely over the last few weeks and recognize their concern with our proposed debit usage fee,” David Darnell, co-chief operating officer at Bank of America, said in a statement. “As a result, we are not currently charging the fee and will not be moving forward with any additional plans to do so.”

For many customers like me, it’s too late. I’m leaving. I started the process to change my bank a month ago and I’m not stopping – here’s why:

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New Citi Checking Account Fees

CitibankLast week, Bank of America caught a lot of flak for introducing a bunch of fees on their checking accounts. This week, it’s Citi’s turn and the fees will start in December.

  • If you have a mid-level Citibank account, you’ll get a $20 per month fee if you don’t maintain a balance of at least $15,000 in your accounts, up from $6,000.
  • EZ Checking account holders will now see a $15 per month fee if they don’t maintain at least a $6,000 balance and the EZ Checking package is getting phased out.
  • Basic Banking accounts will see a fee increase of $2 to $10 per month, which you can avoid if you maintain a balance of $1,500 or make one direct deposit and one automatic online payment per month.

Today it’s Citi, last week it was Bank of America, tomorrow it will be another brick and mortar bank. It’s only a matter of time. If you want to avoid being forced to change banks because you want to avoid fees, start moving your banking now.

(Photo: redvers)


Bank of America Overdraft Fee Lawsuit Settlement

Bank of America ATMsIn late May, Bank of America’s $410 million settlement of a class action lawsuit concerning debit-card overdraft fees received preliminary approval from a Miami federal judge. Thirty five banks were named in a class-action litigation and Bank of America was the first to settle. The final approval hearing will be November 7th.

Did you just get a letter in the mail about the Bank of America overdraft fee lawsuit settlement? Congratulations, you’re due for a little piece of the $410 million dollar settlement that Bank of America agreed to several months ago in litigation named “In Re: Checking Account Overdraft Litigation, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, No. 1:09-MD-02036-JLK” (they’ve settled on a lot of things, but that’s the one this post is about). The agreement has been approved and you can now take action.

Remember a few years ago when it was revealed that banks were (allegedly) playing games when it came to the ordering of various transactions? Fifth Third Bank settled in April on something very similar. Well, the lawsuit charged that banks were processing charges days after a purchase was made, they were reordering the processing times, and doing all sorts of other chicanery in order to maximize fee income. I won’t be surprised to hear other banks settling too.

The judge ordered that the administrator create a website (it’s now past July 1st so that’s the website) and toll-free number (1-800-372-2390) by July 1st, so look for a website by then. Also, all class members will receive a postcard by September 2nd.

According to the website, if you want to get payment or account credit, you don’t have to do anything. The website states: “You do not have to do anything to get a payment or account credit from the Settlement. If the Court approves the Settlement and it becomes final and effective, all identifiable Settlement Class Members who are entitled to receive a cash benefit and who remain in the Settlement Class will automatically get a payment or account credit and will give up their legal rights against Bank of America about thes claims in this litigation.”

If you want to exclude yourself from the settlement, and thus retain the right to bring separate litigation, object, or go to a hearing, you can do so via the website (or find out more information on how to do so. If you do nothing, you’ll get paid a portion of the settlement amount.

(Photo: rainforestactionnetwork)


How to Avoid ATM Fees

ATMsWhen my sister was in college, she used the ATM a lot. Whenever she needed some money, she’s go to the machine and pull out $20. Sometimes she’d check her balance. Then one day she realized, or my dad realized, that she was using an out of network ATM which charged around $5-7 (combined) each time she withdrew money. For every $20 she withdrew, she was paying a $7 fee. Every time she checked her balance, that’s another fee. Over the course of a semester, she racked up around $100 in unnecessary fees. In her case, she wasn’t aware it was happening but it’s a hard pill to swallow nonetheless.

Fortunately, with a few quick tips, being dinged by ATM fees is completely avoidable.

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What Happens If Ally Bank Buys ING Direct?

Allying DirectLast week, there was news about Ally Bank in talks to buy ING Direct. It would be a marriage of my two favorite online banks*.

The biggest question I had, as a customer of both, is what should I expect after an acquisition. I know it’s still early but I’m curious to know, so I called Greg McBride of Bankrate, one of the most knowledgeable people I know, and he gave me a good idea of what to expect (if anything, many times these “talks” become nothing).

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 Bank Deals 

Free Admission to Museums from Bank of America Museums on Us

For thirteen years, Bank of America has put together their Museums on Us program where account holders get access to art and cultural institutions all across the country. They add more museums, aquariums, and cultural sights each and ever year. This year, the program includes 150 institutions in 85 cities, which means you can get into more places for absolutely free (this includes Merrill Lynch customers, which Bank of America acquired in 2008).

The participating institutions include the whole spectrum, in terms of popularity, and most notably include the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Seattle Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the New York Aquarium. My current fair state of Maryland only boasts two participating institutions – The American Visionary Art Museum (I went to a wedding here recently and it’s a pretty cool and wacky museum!) and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture.

To find out what institutions are participating in your area, you can search the Museums on Us site for more information.

Some fine print for you:

To qualify for Museums on Us, customers simply present their Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card along with a photo ID to gain one free general admission to any participating institution. Not valid for special exhibitions, fundraising events or ticketed shows. Not to be combined with any other discounts or offers. Free admission does not guarantee reservation. Offer valid the first full weekend of each month through December 3-4, 2011


You Still Need A Brick & Mortar Bank

In the last ten years I’ve watched the online banking marketplace explode in terms of options. Ten years ago there was only one online bank – ING Direct. Today, you have dozens of them with more opening their doors each quarter. Their appeal is obvious, higher interest rates, and the allure of a high yield savings accounts is continuously balanced against the possibility that their website could go down.

It’s not uncommon for a financial institution’s website to go unavailable. In the last few years, we’ve seen several banks have periodic outages (most notably when the Emigrant Direct’s website was inaccessible for several days back in 2008) for inexplicable reasons (at least, with reasons they haven’t explained to the public). You wanted to chalk it up to the frugal necessities of the online bank, but just recently we saw that Bank of America’s website was unavailable for several hours. It wasn’t some small community bank with a crappy website… it was Bank of America, one of the largest financial institutions in our nation.

(Incidentally, here are some tips to prepare for an online bank website outage)

The lesson I took from this was that while online banking has experienced a boon in the last decade or so, you still need a brick and mortar bank. With the rise of online checking accounts, many people considering dropping their brick & mortar accounts in favor of a higher yielding checking account. While I think it’s a great product, who wouldn’t want to earn more interest, you still need to protect yourself because websites go down.

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