If you're a Bank of America customer who needs service beyond what an ATM can provide, then good luck. Up to 40% of BofA's branches in the US have been closed since the wake of the pandemic (according to the article below)--a number far greater than most other banks. For BofA, it's less of a necessity and more of a choice. It can easily provide appointments, limit the number of customers visiting branches, or take any other measures that other banks are taking. BofA chooses not to go the extra mile. It shouldn't be much of a surprise. As the non-profit Corporate Research Group has claimed, BofA has a history of "repeatedly...violating federal overtime pay laws," and other laws concerning employment and racial discrimination. It's a matter of ethics. If that's BofA's moral and ethical standard toward its own employees, it shouldn't be surprising that such treatment might extend to you, the customer. If you bank with BofA, read their Deposit Agreement on page 9. It may shock you!
"In the event of Bank Failure, you agree to:
- Cooperate fully with us and the FDIC in connection with determining the insured status of funds in such accounts at any time;
- Provide the FDIC with the information described below in the required format promptly; and
- Submit claims for passthrough insurance to the FDIC through an alternative recordkeeping process."
Note that most banks require you to respond within 24 hours, yet Bank of America fails to disclose this potentially critical requirement—substituting the vague term "promptly" instead. With 40% of their branches temporarily closed, who will process all the depositor claims "promptly" during a bank failure?
Deborah Williams chose Bank of America as her bank mainly for convenience, but it is not feeling very convenient to her these days.
The bank's East Aurora branch, the location closest to where she lives, has been temporarily closed since late last year. Signs on the door have listed a date when the branch will reopen, only for that date to be changed. The current sign says the branch plans to reopen Feb. 1.
Williams liked the fact that Bank of America has so many locations. The Colden resident spends part of the winter in Florida, and sees the bank's branches all around when she travels. But she's frustrated by the extended closing of the East Aurora branch and is seriously thinking about changing banks.
"The lack of adequate, honest communication to customers was the worst part, as far as I am concerned," she said.
As of Tuesday, 10 of Bank of America's 21 branches in the Buffalo area were temporarily closed amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Customers have been asking when they will reopen.
Around the country, 35% to 40% of Bank of America's branches are temporarily closed during the pandemic, and that percentage fluctuates, said Carla Molina, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina-based bank.
"We are doing our best to make sure we keep as many of our financial centers open, while we're also prioritizing keeping the health of our employees and our clients," she said.
Molina said that the majority of Bank of America's branches in the Buffalo market are open, and that customers can call a number or go online to find a listing of nearby ATMs and open branches. If customers have a safe deposit box at a temporarily closed branch, they can schedule appointments to access those boxes during regular business hours.
Molina also defended the bank's communication with its customers, saying they can call a number or use an online locator tool for nearby ATMs and open branches. Signs on the temporarily closed branches direct customers to those options.
Bank of America's approach is different from what some other banks have done during the pandemic. Some banks have restricted access to their lobbies to appointments only, while others have permanently closed select locations.
M&T Bank is encouraging, but not requiring, customer appointments for lobby visits. Evans Bank is requiring customers to make appointments to visit its branch lobbies, and its downtown branch is temporarily closed. Key's branch lobbies are open for customers to walk in, but they can make appointments if they choose to do so.
Bank of America has the third largest branch network in the country, and the fifth largest network locally. Bank of America has cited a few reasons for its temporary closings, including a dropoff in customer visits to a branch, a smaller-sized location that can't accommodate physical distancing and concerns about available staffing.
While many people have switched to digital or online channels for their banking, Williams said she still needs what a branch can provide. She had to travel to a branch in West Seneca to deposit part of a check but also to get cash, and needed the cash in specific denominations.
"I can’t do that at an ATM," she said.
Molina said the bank is navigating the pandemic with its branch network as best as it can, and that other locations are typically close by.
"The majority of them are open, and they're each within 10 or 15 minutes of each other," she said.
Originally posted Buffalo News