Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) is one of the most recognizable companies in the United States thanks to its 16,000 ATM's and 5,200 branches, and, while it's in the news often (more than it presumably prefers), there is a lot you may not know about the country's second largest bank. The Motley Fool has drilled down to find five things that may surprise you about this megabank.

Bank Of America

1. It's shrinking
Bank of America is enormous. As of its most recent earnings release it had $2,126,653,000,000 in assets. Yes -- $2.1 trillion. So while that may be surprising to many, what is also surprising is that, despite its enormous size, it is actually getting smaller.

At the end of 2010, the bank had $2.3 trillion in assets, and has shrunk its size by $138 billion since then. Compare that to JPMorgan Chase, which has seen its assets grow from $2.1 trillion to $2.5 trillion, and Wells Fargo, which has grown from $1.3 trillion to $1.5 trillion, as shown in the chart below:

Source: Company Earnings Reports

While these three banks are certainly enormous, with over $6 trillion in assets, Bank of America is the only one actually getting smaller.

Bank Of America

2. It has almost half as many online users as Pinterest
In July, it was reported that the popular social site Pinterest had 70 million users. Bank of America recently noted that it had over 30 million online banking accounts. It also almost edged out the up-and-coming video sharing app Vine, which has almost 40 million users.

3. It's actually 1,537 companies rolled into one
Not only are banks huge when it comes to the size of their balance sheets, but also the number of different entities that make them up. As of the end of last year (when the list was disclosed to the SEC), Bank of America had 1,537 different subsidiaries.

Thanks to a whole host of regulations and laws across different countries, banks have to do business out of a variety of subsidiaries, some very small, and some very big. The same is true of Wells Fargo, which had 1,473 subsidiaries as of last year. On the whole subject of Bank of America shrinking: its subsidiaries stood at 2,069 in 2010.

4. It doesn't make all its money off of fees
Bank of America was met with a furry of negativity following its announcement on September 29, 2011 that it would be charging a $5 fee for its customers who used their debit cards. A CNN story that detailed the change was recommended over 72,000 times on Facebook. Bank of America dropped the plan almost exactly one month later on November 1st.

While it is easy to bemoan big banks for their continual desire to nickel and dime customers, only about a third of Bank of America's consumer lending revenue comes from fees. In fact, a portion of that is from its card business, which also collects fees from merchants -- not just consumers.

Bank Of America

5. It really is the bank of America
Although Bank of America is no longer the largest bank in America by total size, it still remains the preferred bank for American consumers and companies, and as of the second quarter of this year it held almost 12% of the $9.4 trillion dollars of deposits in FDIC-insured banks. Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase each hold around 10%.

While the Occupy Wall Streeters and proponents of small banks may not like to hear it, companies and consumers have shown with their wallets that Bank of America continues to be the preferred place to put their dollars.


Fool contributor Patrick Morris owns shares of Bank of America. The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.