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Bank of America: What’s up with Washington State & Idaho?

Almost daily my Google Analytics report shows that someone has come to my site searching for the answer to why mobile banking isn’t available to Washington State and Idaho customers.

One could ask the same question about Wachovia customers of rival Wells Fargo. Do a search on this and you’ll find message boards covered with customers asking the question over and over. Bank of America and Wells Fargo are the two banks I find consumers asking about the most, but the same question could be asked of many institutions, and the answer is basically the same for all of them.

I’m tired of seeing this question unanswered and I’m going to try to answer it in general without revealing any confidential information. This is good for all these institutions’ customers to understand. So here goes:

Banks are known for their mergers. Banks are also heavily regulated at the Federal, State and local levels. For example, in Georgia, banks used to not be allowed to operate across county lines. This protected community banks and essentially forced larger institutions to have a charter and varying sets of distinct operations in each jurisdiction. In Georgia, this legacy arguably contributed to the huge number of bank failures during the Great Recession — but that’s another topic.

So, the answer is that many large banks have found themselves with subsets of their customer base that they cannot easily support with the same technology as the rest of their customers. System integration of legacy bank systems always go slower than business agreements to merge operations. Sometimes regulatory issues slow efforts down even more.

So the non-answer I’ve given is that each of these institutions want to support all their customers. Long term it’s certainly cheaper to have everyone on the same technology. But in each instance there are technical and/or regulatory issues that have prevented them from rolling out the more broadly available technology to these particular areas.

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17 Responses leave one →
  1. September 1, 2010

    Way to talk around the problem without getting to any point. I live in Washington and work heavily with the infrastuctures of datacenters for large national companies to include the above mentioned. The technology to allow the mobile banking is there but is not allowed to be used due to a 10 year old washington state law that has given exclusive online banking rights to washington based banks. Next time do a litte research and you’ll find that it will answer the question for you, and you wont ahve to work so hard to write line after line of BS. -Have a nice Day-

  2. Richard Huffman permalink
    September 28, 2010

    To mike clutter –

    Can you point out the RCW for this law? Honestly this is the first I’ve heard of this; every other site I’ve ever read about this issue (And there are very very few) mentions the whole integration issue. Basically B of A bought Seattle First ten or more years ago and they still haven’t integrated things; at least that’s how the story goes. Supposedly they are still creaking along on their legacy system from Seattle First, which if true, is ridiculous at this point. There is probably nothing more annoying than going up to a new Bank of American ATM, with all the bells and whistles, and it has an ad running across the screen for the B of A mobile banking iphone app. Which of course does not work in our damn state. Smack of false advertising.

  3. Jens permalink
    October 2, 2010

    I appreciate this post as I came here looking more information on WA and the reason for BOA’s Android app not working here. I’m sure you have the knowledge to elaborate a bit more on your post, but as it stands now you have said absolutely nothing.

    For those looking for an answer:

    Bank of America bought SeaFirst bank (located in Washington: ‘Seattle First Bank’) awhile ago. The Bank of Americas in Washington are still using SeaFirst bank’s network infrastructure, which is severely outdated and will not in its current state support something like the Android app.

    For the Android BoA app to work in Washington, Bank of America needs to completely overhaul its network infrastructure and change it to what they are using everywhere else. I have no idea if this applies to any other state, but I’m going to guess here that it is only Washington and Idaho.

    I have thought about what I want to do, and I am satisfied with Bank of America in almost every aspect except for its crappy online/mobile banking capabilities in Washington state. I am going to go into a location here and ask them if I am able to move my accounts to another state for the sole purpose of gaining the new online banking system. If they say no then I will just tell them I’m moving to Oregon and register everything under my sister’s address. If this works I will be sure to let as many people know as possible, especially if I’m able to do it without jumping through too many hoops.

  4. Asif R Khan, M.D. permalink
    October 28, 2010

    I am just switching to Chase bank…
    Just had enough with BOA… I am switching all my business and personal accounts…

  5. Thomas permalink
    November 1, 2010

    Sorry, the infrastructure excuse is absolute nonsense. While I wouldn’t be surprised if washington and idaho BofA’s are still running some Sea-1st legacy systems, the fact that online banking is up and running tells me they have the necessary tech infrastructure and resources to set up mobile banking.

  6. November 4, 2010

    Having online banking infrastructure doesn’t mean mobile banking is straightforward. One of the biggest challenges in mobile banking is connecting to online banking infrastructure.

  7. Alex Brewer permalink
    December 30, 2010

    The lack of mobile banking in Washington and Idaho stems from the online banking system used in those states. Bank of America built a new online banking system a few years ago which gives much more information about transactions, for example, temporary authorizations are viewable online immediately, something that is NOT viewable for WA/ID accounts. The mobile banking applications were designed to work with the online banking system in place in most of the country. The WA/ID system would need to be completely overhauled to provide mobile banking support, and it makes more sense to just transition WA/ID accounts to the newer national online banking system which would then provide mobile access. If anyone in Washington wants to see the differences between the online banking services and has a Bank of America credit card, contact Bank of America NorthWest Customer Service @ 1-800-442-6680 and tell them to set up a “model credit card profile.” this is basically a separate, additional account that uses the new system.

    Of course, the use of the old online banking system is almost certainly due to the lack of integration of Seafirst systems and BoA systems. In the long term it’s the same issue as stated above.

  8. Paul permalink
    January 16, 2011

    I don’t buy it. Seattle First Bank was a subsidiary of Bank of America since before 1990. They officially changed the name to Bank of America in 1999. Before the name changed, I could go to an ATM at any branch of BofA outside of Washington State and be able to deposit checks, etc. The day the name changed, the ATMs would no longer allow deposits. Why would merely changing the name of the bank cause the ATM situation? NO reason. Only answer I could get was that the computer systems were incompatible, which I knew was a lie. Same goes for mobile banking. It’s been over 20 years since BofA took over operation of SeaFirst; they’ve had more than enough time to “upgrade” the system to allow mobile banking. Their website works just fine, same should go for mobile.

  9. January 27, 2011

    um… you can enter the address below in any phone with a browser and bypass BOA check to see if you are on a mobile device.. I have used this url for several years on my old Windows mobile devices.

    Happy Online Banking!


  10. Sunset Abby Lynn permalink
    January 31, 2011

    Try this link:
    you have to manually enter this in your browser. I just tried this on my droid. It works !! I’ve been suffering for over a year not being able to access my BofA account while on the road. Found this info on a G search tonight. It was this guy’s solution.

  11. Sean permalink
    February 15, 2011

    What i am really peeved of about is that with Bank of America i cant access my online statements !!! So i have to rely on paper copy ! This is absurd!!! especially in this day and age of virtually all major banks are offering e-statements

    Apparently becuase i live in Washington state and BOA doesnt allow customers in WA to have e-statements

  12. Kelly permalink
    May 9, 2011

    Olav! I love you! Thank you so much for the link! It works! :)


  13. Reid permalink
    June 14, 2011

    The mobile browser allows you to login and check account balance and such (using the above link) but I don’t think it will allow you to use bill payer as I have tried in the past to pay bills and it just sends me back to homepage….unless they’ve changed something.

    That is the the most important feature for me to be able to pay bills while mobile.

    I’m tired of BoA anyway. Probably gonna jump ship and go to IQ credit union where their website actually works and updates your account more than once every 2 days!

  14. David L permalink
    July 15, 2011

    I’m not sure why I’ve tolerated BofA for so long. I feel like, as a WA account holder, I’m a second-class citizen. I’ve spoken extensively with BofA corporate folks, and the reason for the lack of mobile banking for WA customers is indeed the failure to integrate the old SeaFirst systems. They plan to roll out mobile banking toward the end of 2012 (I’ll believe it when I see it). I, however, will be long gone by then. Chase now has a critical mass of ATM distribution to rival BofA. In additon, Chase lets you deposit checks by pic message, and allows paperless statements. In short, they are not living in 1990.

  15. Randy permalink
    August 24, 2011

    Just downloaded the Android app…and it seems to work in Washington State – finally!

  16. Alicia S permalink
    September 1, 2011

    I used to work for bank of america in WA and all the accounts opened in washington have 8-numbered bank accts, everywhere else they are longer (10-14?). I’d always have to tell customers, sorry if you are out of state customer and want me to look up your account, we run on a different system here in washington (as well as idaho). the systems name is “BOL” banking online, which is basically a really really old banking/accounting software type. Thinking 90’s computers. You can’t even use new monitors with BOL technology, unlike chase and every other boa account outside of washington. they are on the “merlin” system, which 2011 up to date and does more than count numbers and balance the books of its bank accounts. BOA WA needs to step it up because WA accts don’t offer half the service they offer to other states, yet they always pressured us to open more accounts?

    Also, beware, WA state accounts opened now, brand new, can no longer deposit cash with a teller, risk paying a whopping $8 each time! absurd. wa state boa accounts are a BUSINESS in it itself, they’ve been charging outrageous fees ($35 overdrafts for going over by 0.01 even!, and other heinous ways of theft). This is another hidden benefit for BOA wa staying the same, not because they don’t have the tech or power to do so.. because they most definitely do.

    BTW.. no longer working there :)

  17. john slyfield permalink
    September 10, 2011

    Well integration will (finally!!!) Happen in October. About time!

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