The Most Despicable Thing Bank of America Has Ever Done

There's a long and growing list of Bank of America's (NYSE: BAC  ) misdeeds one must wade through in order to determine which is the worst. But if anyone is qualified to do so, it would be Motley Fool contributor John Maxfield, author of the most comprehensive list of the bank's recent indiscretions that's widely available.

Since the financial crisis, the nation's second largest bank by assets has been accused of discriminating against women and minorities, rigging the municipal bond market, tipping the scales in ostensibly neutral arbitration forums, misleading investors about the financial health of Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch prior to their acquisitions, submitting fraudulent documents to courts in judicial foreclosure proceedings, misrepresenting the safety and liquidity of purportedly cash-like investment products, and underpaying employees in its Merrill Lynch division, among other things.

In the video below, however, John gives his rationale for why Bank of America's former policy of reordering debit-card transactions for the purpose of maximizing overdraft fees is far and away the most egregious moral and ethical infraction committed by the bank to date.

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Read/Post Comments (42) | Recommend This Article (35)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2014, at 6:49 PM, Biglittlejoe wrote:

    BofA owes me lots of money in overdraft fees and they won't pay me back!

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2014, at 8:15 PM, trpoldham wrote:

    I worked for BofA in the mid-70's - learned to hate them then (from an insider's perspective) - and have avoided dealing with them for more than 3 decades since.

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2014, at 8:22 PM, Pfolks31 wrote:

    Bank of America discrimnation. I work in the city and decided to stop in and open a simple savings and checking account I was I needed to have direct deposited and a balance of 1500.00 dollars other than that there was no account for me. I went online and seen that I don't need that for a simple account. I am gonna report the female that I spoke to in the bank

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2014, at 8:39 PM, NunyaBeezwax wrote:

    No doubt! After I discovered (then) CEO (Ken Lewis) e-mail address, on-line. I submitted a lengthy message detailing my continuous & excessive overdraft fees, over $3000. within a 3 month period. Explaining how, for 2 years I called in and complained about the chronological order of my charges being re-ordered, and them basically telling me that I was crazy. Needless to say, he did receive my message. I went to my local branch, when my my debt card wouldn't work. At first she couldn't figure out what had happened. She said that she had never seen that particular 'reason' before. Come to find out, in lieu of my complaint, Bank of America graciously closed my account for me and my balance (check) was mailed to my home address, which I never received. I have been trying to find an open Class Action Lawsuit that I can join. If anyone knows what direction I should travel, please...feel free.

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2014, at 9:15 PM, DaSky wrote:

    Interesting that you never comment on the despicable things the government does MF, only the businesses that are forced to act according to corrupted policies and regulations!

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2014, at 10:03 PM, davidinsf wrote:

    B of A 'used' to claim they re-ordered checks to be paid by highest to lowest because 'large checks usually were for rent, car payments, insurance' etc and they were sure people wanted those paid.

    When I asked them why it even mattered since they were covering the checks ANYWAY (they knew I had direct deposit and the payroll would be coming in within 24 hours or less) - they couldn't answer. I mean, once they overdrew the account by 'cashing' the largest check first, most likely every check after that would trigger a $35 fee. But if they cashed the small ones first, only ONE $35 might be charged.

    Lets face it - CROOKS.

    (As an alternative, how bout re-order them at TIME of arrival, not by highest to lowest???)

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2014, at 10:53 PM, Puggy100 wrote:

    Stopped Using B of A in the 70's after fees added up to more than my average balance. I can't really understand why anyone would give their money to a company hell bent on taking as much as they can, and they do. Go figure?

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2014, at 11:10 PM, nxs8577 wrote:

    Hey guys I have the most amazing trick to help you beat the bank at this game. You will never ever and I swear to this or I'll pay all your NSF fees for you. Just follow this one trick........don't spend money you don't have and it will not matter how the items are re-ordered. It's simple if you have $100.00 in your checking account don't spend $101.00. Then they can't charge you any fees. Amazing huh? Wow America land of the dumb home of the blame.....

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2014, at 11:56 PM, waddles1958 wrote:

    They need to check how B of A handles short sales. Everyone I know (including me) that tried a short sale with them, it would not go through. I had an offer 2 weeks after listing it. Every time B of A wanted more info they would start the whole process from the beginning again. 10 months went by and Fannie Mae paid me $4,200.00 to turn the place over to them early and of course nothing happened with the short sale.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 12:15 AM, Miltzy14 wrote:

    Be nice if the criminals at Bank of America all got in a fiery car wreck

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 1:12 AM, comicman2015 wrote:

    Don't go negative and you wont get fees. Pretty simple concept.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 2:40 AM, Zoseph wrote:

    MANY banks have done this very thing. Bank of America has done far worse things than this, especially to 80+ year-old ladies. Especially in Rolla, MO.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 2:42 AM, squirl033 wrote:

    BoA is one of the largest criminal organizations in the country (aside from the government!), and is possibly the most corrupt, unethical, and dishonest of all the commercial banks. i have not dealt with them for over 30 years for just that reason. but their unethical and immoral actions are not unique; most large commercial banks do many of the same things in their never-ending quest to fleece consumers and maximize their profits at the expense of their customers. that's why i stopped using commercial banks years ago and joined a credit union...if you're tired of getting screwed by your bank, maybe you should do the same!

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 2:48 AM, cri33 wrote:

    I don't know anyone who loves their bank. They all do the same things to make money. I would switch to a credit union but the bank in question here is the most convenient for me and that is why I stay.......

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 2:50 AM, kcisobderf wrote:

    It's long past time to *hang* 500 bankers and outsourcing CEOs for economic treason. We will not get our country back until we do.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 3:07 AM, Ardadius wrote:

    Bank of America charged me fees on mortgage payments that weren't even due yet. Bank of America is filled with swindlers and thieves.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 5:49 AM, Luella wrote:

    *why Bank of America's former policy of reordering debit-card transactions for the purpose of maximizing overdraft fees is far and away the most egregious moral and ethical infraction committed by the bank to date.*

    US bank has pulled this trick for years. They got me for over $500. for a $1.50 purchase. Sad part is, I had called the bank, and checked online, they said I had a $2.00 balance. I am a disabled Veteran, all my money was at that time coming in check form. They failed to even send me a notice, I found out the hard way, when I went to deposit my checks for the next month.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 9:21 AM, Jetsfan10 wrote:

    I had a situation with overdraft fees with BOA. Luckily, I had printed out my account on a Tuesday, and Wednesday, they had reversed the order of the payments that came in. The smaller ones were listed on Tuesday, but Wednesday, they had the bigger one (my cable bill) and the smaller ones listed, which is where I got hit with the overdraft fees. I printed off the one for Wednesday and went to the bank. They gave me the line that "we process them as they come in", I said ok, explain the change. she couldn't and as she put it, "well, we'll reimburse you for your overdraft fees this one time."

    Silly me stayed with them. I made a deposit at a later date and they gave me an "available" balance and a "pending" balance. Now, silly me, thinking available means available. I guess BOA language is different. I kept my atm receipt. The following week, I'm again hit with overdraft fees because apparently in bank language, "available" didn't mean "available". I copied my atm receipt, wrote a letter to our banking commissioner and attorney general, which contained the Webster's definition of "available" and copied our local branch of BOA. I requested a clarification on the Webster's definition of "available" and the banking definition of "available". Needless to say, I got my money back.

    No more chances after that, I changed banks.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 10:17 AM, ardoucette wrote:

    What a bunch of CRY BABIES.

    You aren't supposed to over draw your checking account and you agree NOT TO when you open your account.

    The bank also offers low to virtually no cost, OD protection by simply linking your Checking account to a line of credit, to cover you if you accidently do over draw your account.

    As to ORDER of checks, the bank can't win either way.

    If they pay the smallest first, they may overdraw fewer checks, but the logic is customers generally WANT the largest checks covered first as they are generally more important.


    Well if you have two checks come in and the bank can only pay one, and one's for your mortgage and one's for the drugstore, which would you want paid?

    Not sure?

    Well what if that payment to the mortgage company was needed to STOP foreclosure proceedings and the bank paid the $50 drugstore check and returned the $800 mortgage payment, and because of that you lost your house?

    The bank can't have people looking at the Pay To line and trying to make that decision, this is an AUTOMATED process.


    Friggin cry babies, do something they shouldn't and for which the bank has a cheap protection method available to them and they CRY that the Bank is bad.

    Get over yourselves.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 10:22 AM, raduzmf wrote:

    Their IT is run by people from India so this does not surprise me. The only thing that surprises me is how they can call themselves Bank of AMERICA when they won't hire Americans.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 10:44 AM, nothereman01 wrote:

    This comment is intended more for the other comments made than for the actual story. Not defending BOA; have been unhappy with them a few times too, but don't we typically "hate" anything or anyone who tries to impose a false sense of responsibility on us because as a rule we don't do a very good job of being responsible on our own? For example; the person who incurs the most overdraft fees on their account just happens to be the person who overdraws their account regularly? (there are exceptions, but very-very few) In the world of "be responsible" if that persons does not pay those fees then every other customer, including the vast majority who do not overdraw, has to pay for the expenses incurred dealing with the overdraft; BUT the person who overdraws feels some sense of (call it what you want) that they "shouldn't have to pay." Bologna. Stop overdrawing and stop paying the fees. Be responsible for yourself and the things you do, then you'll find the need to blame others happens less frequently. Full disclosure; yes, I do have a job and no, it is not for BOA or in the banking industry or for the government.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 11:05 AM, ardoucette wrote:

    I've worked with the BofA IT department for many years, and NO, they are not run by people from India.

    BofA has its headquarters in Charlotte, NC. All staffed with Americans.

    It has 5,800 branches in the US, all staffed with Americans.

    It has multiple operations centers across the US, all staffed with Americans.

    Indeed, it has ~250,000 employees and the vast majority are Americans.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 11:10 AM, Richcran wrote:

    While it is true that if you keep your check book balanced and dont spend more than you have in your account, you wont generally get these sorts of fees. It only takes a small mistake if you tend to use all your balance, like most of us do.

    BofA can and will charge you a fee if they think they can get away with it. Hey those bonuses have to come from somewhere.

    A good example was probably 20 yrs ago. I had a savings account with BofA, so I could cash my check without paying the fee. The monthly account fee was less than the cost of paying to cash 3 checks. This was a basic savings account, no ATM card, no debit, no checks. Only way to get the money was walk in and ask for it. Next thing I have a $29 overdraft fee. Of course Im gonna ask. Well it seems I over drew my account, really lets look, hmm well I still had a positive balance. They figured it out, when I asked for my balance one day, the girl had given me my total balance, not what was 'available'. So I was 'over drawn'. They wanted to keep that $29 so bad. Only after they realized I was not gonna just suck it up and move on, did they give it back.

    Then there was the day I asked them to cash a money order, one from the post office. Nope wanted to put a 10 day hold on it, its a money order. Well if it was a BofA money order they would cash it, any other required a 10 day hold. Theirs was only $4 vs 85 cents anywhere else. Funny post office cashed it no questions asked.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 11:18 AM, andresuharja wrote:

    not fan of bofa, but anything the bofa do/did to mess people up, citibank or wells fargo do/did the same thing, times two!

    at least bofa get the attention, but what about those crooks at citibank and wells fargo?

    they should get exposed as well

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 11:20 AM, notasheep wrote:

    BOA was deducting $14.95 per month from the checking acct. of my 92 year old father for several years before we noticed it. BOA said it was for a health insurance supplement, and it was with one of their affiliates, not BOA, but BOA would refund the last 3 months of the unauthorized charges. Dad is a retired USAF Capt. with full medical coverage, he would never need nor buy additional healthcare. Long story short, neither company could produce a contract with Dads signature or any other supporting paperwork. This "affiliate" got my father's bank acct info and social security number from BOA directly. We did get all of the charges returned, but it took more than 2 mos. to do it.... I wonder how many other advanced seniors BOA is doing this to. Please check your elderly loved ones bank statements for small recurrent charges that don't make sense. The bank and the insurance co both swore up and down that Dad signed up for this, so beware.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 11:21 AM, lm1b2 wrote:

    Having done Business with this Bank i can tell you it is the only Bank that i truly hate,if every lending institution in the world would refuse me credit except Bank of America,i would refuse to do business with them,there scum !

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 11:31 AM, ardoucette wrote:

    @Richcran wrote: While it is true that if you keep your check book balanced and dont spend more than you have in your account, you wont generally get these sorts of fees. It only takes a small mistake if you tend to use all your balance, like most of us do.


    Not "wont generally get these sort of fees".

    You will NEVER get them.

    And NO

    If you use ALL of your balance, you STILL won't get these fees.

    It is ONLY if you write checks for money you don't have, will this happen.

    And then ONLY if you don't sign up for OVERDRAFT protection, by linking a Credit Card with a small line of credit to your account, which MOST account holders do.

    Blaming the bank for YOUR mistake is just being immature.

    Grow up.

    And that accounts for AVAILABLE balance as well.

    Let me ask you a question.

    You walk into a branch and deposit a check for $1,000,000.

    Do you think you should be able to write checks against that BEFORE it clears?


    Available balance is those funds which have cleared and the bank knows the check you deposited were good.

    Again, that's made clear to you when you open your account.

    By the way, BofA, like most banks, will allow you to dip into those funds (within reason) IF you have had your account for a reasonable period of time and you do not have a history of ODs.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 12:09 PM, kooper156 wrote:

    Sorry, short clowns, but the take away with BAC is higher highs and higher lows and will continue to be. No amount of attempted manipulation on your part is going to prevent that. Motley Fool needs to get some integrity and stop being a mechanism where b.s. articles that distort the facts are presented as news. This is simply a way that those who work for the elite try to present spin to the Motley Fool members who they look upon as unsophisticated chumps. Their heavy handed tactics are clear and obvious.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 12:32 PM, ardoucette wrote:


  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 2:55 PM, JohanStrauss wrote:

    I wish you'd get to the meat of the subject in that video instead of droning on like some old grandmother. What a god-awful bore.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 2:59 PM, JohanStrauss wrote:

    oh god shoot me now

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 3:00 PM, JohanStrauss wrote:

    Google? LIKEABILITY??? Google is EVIL.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 3:01 PM, JohanStrauss wrote:

    OK, I quit. When the 9 most disliked companies doesn't include Walmart, I *know* someone is FOS.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 7:47 PM, JessieRose wrote:

    This is specifically addressed to those who say if don't spend more than you have, you won't get fees:

    On payday, automatic deposit. On that day, or soon thereafter, I run errands such as grocery shopping. On the way, I stopped at a drive thru coffee shop. The tab was $3.00. The clerk accidently entered $3,000.00. It was immediately corrected by the clerk and I go about my business for the day. A few days later, my debit card is declined. I go to the bank to find my account overdrafted almost $4,000!!!! In looking at the account, with the manager, it was found that the $3,000.00 mistake, although corrected immediately, was not credited back into my account for three days. THREE DAYS! In the meantime, every single transaction I made was NOT paid and hit with a $35 overdraft fee. The bank maintained it was not their fault and I owed them. The coffee shop owner (who owned 10 of them) came into the branch with me, explained the mess, and the bank still refused to reverse the transaction and eliminate the fees. In the meantime, I have absolutely no money to live on. I went two weeks with absolutely no cash, fighting the bank every step of the way. Finally, I hired an attorney. Five months later, the bank had to pay up, reverse fees and pay a fine directly to me. The stress of it was horrible! The bank? You guessed it! Bank of America. I took every loan I had with them out of there after a 28 year relationship. I would rather see them burn than succeed.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 8:17 PM, ucmeyet wrote:

    OK, How about this? I deposited a check into BofA account I had, waited the 5 days, and looked online. It showed the funds were available. I also called the banks automated line, showed funds were available. SO, I went and bought a new bed for the kid, paid some bills, groceries, and bought some things for myself I had waited on.

    So, checks start going through for the purchases, and B of A starts racking up 35.00 overdrafts fees!!! Even though it showed the money was available, I did NOT go over what was available, in fact, I should have had a good 600.00 left over. I call the bank, and they tell me that they decided to hold the deposit for 21 days, and that the attorney that cut the check did not pay up! So I called the attorney, and talked to him, in which he showed proof at our meeting that the money left his account to my bank. He even called B of A for me. My account was then overdrawn for almost 300.00. By the time I got done fighting them, ( still waiting for payback, ) it shows 1200.00 in fees and they refuse to reverse it, even though the money was there in the account. I will NEVER deal with B of A again!!!! They are thieves!!!!

  • Report this Comment On March 03, 2014, at 2:53 PM, Rifleman3006 wrote:

    The author is at it again - what a S Disturber you like to be. You are so full of crap as you say you own 1000 shares. Who but a fool, would keep blasting a company they say they own - oh right, one who must be a short or just plain full of it. Why does anyone read the fools crap- I read it for entertainment only as I like to laugh at the lack of insight they exude.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2014, at 12:19 PM, ardoucette wrote:

    Interesting stories that people make up.

    Computers are not vindictive.

    If the computer display says your AVAILABLE BALANCE is X, then it is X.

    Later that night during posting, it won't mysteriously go back to less than X.

    I've been in bank payment processing for 40 years.

    This is ALL done by computer and by a set of rules that don't vary and are not hard to understand.

    Whoever is making up these stories is ALWAYS leaving out something.

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2014, at 12:53 PM, levitator wrote:

    It is regrettable that the fool user community cannot post an informative personal experience without incurring personal insults from a select few. It is precisely this type of personal experience with a company that helps inform me about the quality of the corporate governance and the culture tolerated within their walls. I became a BofA customer when my local bank was swallowed up about a decade ago. The news item here, as well as the posts, and my own recent experience with BofA reinforce each other from several independent sources. Based on my own experiences, about 2 weeks ago I initiated a transfer of all of my accounts to a local bank, and am in the process of moving my assets away from BofA. If the readers of this post feel similarly, they should vote with their feet. So long BofA, and good riddance!

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2014, at 1:21 PM, williambonney wrote:

    What does Obama have to say about this???

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2014, at 1:48 PM, FedUpInTexas wrote:

    B of A offered us a re-fi, then told us we needed to fall behind one payment "to qualify". They then spent an entire YEAR asking for the same documents over and over. Finally, they told us we could not qualify (though their own financial analysis clearly showed that we did) -- AND, "because of our late payment history" (as TOLD to do by them), they could offer only an "internal modification".

    They sent us a THREE PAGE document, with no terms spelled out, other than amount of payment. Only MONTHS later did we discover that they had added $20,000 in principal + TEN YEARS of term -- which increased our total owed by 50%.

    To this date, we have been unable to get an accounting of the extra principal.

    TONS of loans have been increased to 40 year terms by B of A, and many people may not even know that they have been "had".

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2014, at 3:29 PM, billrichter wrote:

    Folks like ardoucette that say this crap doesn't happen are either FOS or shills for the bank in question. BofA misdeposited a check that was deposited in their ATM to my account. I did not deposit the check, the check was not drawn on my account, there was nothing to link either the payor or the payee to my account whatsoever.

    The person who deposited the check immediately withdrew the amount of the check (suspicious transaction), and I had no idea I was grocery shopping, etc. with NSF until the following week when I began to receive the litany of charges for almost ever transaction I made over the weekend.

    BofA proceeded to waffle and misdirect for the next 3 months until I retained an attorney to demand a copy of the check in preparation of a lawsuit. At that point, they provided the attorney a scanned image of the check, as well as an immediate refund of all associated charges to my account. I'm 100% positive that I would never have received any of the fees and charges back without retaining the attorney and threatening the suit.

  • Report this Comment On March 08, 2014, at 1:13 PM, RedEyedDoc wrote:

    If you really don't like BofA, let your money do the talking: take it somewhere else. Otherwise, this is all just a bunch of whining.

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John is The Motley Fool's senior banking specialist. If you're interested in banking and/or finance, you should follow him on Twitter.

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