BofA Merrill’s SafeBalance Account Targets Fee-Wary Consumers (March 12, 2014)
Bank of America Merrill Lynch last week began testing a new product in six states that could compete with GPR cards and low-cost bank accounts, such as MovenSimple and Green Dot Corp.’s GoBank, the latter two of which are Paybefore Awards winners. SafeBalance, which a bank spokesperson confirms is not a prepaid card, is a $4.95-a-month account with all the features of a checking account except check-writing capabilities. The account has no minimum balance requirements and offers extra guarantees against any possible overdraft fees.
SafeBalance targets consumers who said they wanted a product with debit account features and a very simple fee structure plus additional safeguards against fees, a BofA Merrill spokesperson tells Paybefore. Unlike BofA Merrill’s core MyAccess consumer checking account, which waives a monthly fee with a $250 monthly direct deposit, SafeBalance’s $4.95 monthly fee cannot be waived.
Though BofA Merrill for four years has had a policy of declining debit card transactions at the POS when there are insufficient funds, a customer could still incur an overdraft fee from certain payments, such as a recurring charge or ACH transactions; SafeBalance blocks any such payments or fees. “SafeBalance is an alternative option for a small segment of consumers who want more predictability in the way they bank and added protection against overdrafts,” BofA Merrill said in a statement.
BofA Merrill is offering SafeBalance within its consumer checking product area and customers receive a debit card they may use for purchases, paying bills and ATM withdrawals, according to BofA Merrill’s spokesperson. The account offers full access to all BofA Merrill banking channels, including online, mobile, ATMs, branches and call centers. SafeBalance so far is available in Michigan, Oregon, Virginia, Maryland, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.