Keep The Change

by Katy on November 12, 2009 · 29 comments


While watching TV this evening, (I am a complete and unapologetic So You Think You Can Dance addict) an interesting commercial came on that showed a man swiping his debit card as a way of adding money to his savings account.

Huh — Buying stuff adds to your savings?

It turns out that the ad was for a program through Bank of America called, Keep The Change. Participants in this program have all debit card purchases rounded up to the nearest dollar amount and that bit of change is then automatically transferred into their savings account.


Normally, I am a proponent of a conscious and deliberate life, but the unconscious manner of this program actually appeals to me. 37¢ here and 52¢ there can add up faster than you can say:

“Gee Willikers Coin-Girl, where did I all this money come from?”

But the best part of the program is that Bank of America will:

Match your Keep the Change savings for the first 3 months, to the penny. After that, we’ll continue matching 5% a year. The maximum total match is $250 per year.

Sadly, I bank at a credit union that doesn’t put together fancy programs or even have commercials for that matter.  (Although I am otherwise very happy with them.)

I started a personal savings program this last June where I put any extra money into specific ING Direct savings accounts. I didn’t work any overtime, and no money from my paychecks was to be diverted to savings. (So as not  to derail any progress on debt reduction.) The money has come from a garage sale, unexpected windfalls, odd jobs and even found change. I have over $1800 so far, which is split into three different saving accounts.

This has really shown me the power of 37¢ here and 52¢ there.

I won’t be able to participate in Keep the Change, but kind of wish that I could. Are any of you Bank of America customers, and if so are you participating in this program? For those of us who bank elsewhere, what do you think of this program? Would you want your bank to siphon money into a savings account, or would you rather be in full control of your finances? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

P.S. It goes without saying that I am in no way affiliated with Bank of America and have received no compensation for this column.

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Angela November 12, 2009 at 1:28 am

It sounds good, but I did it for about a year and it didn’t work for me for a lot of reasons. The main one was that you should see what your monthly statement looks like- it’s a mess! If you’re old-fashioned like I am, and actually balance your checkbook, it’s not worth the couple of dollars that get transferred into your account. I’d rather do it on my own. I asked them to STOP! the madness and I won’t do it again. I like the idea, but the reality – not so good.

One similar idea that I DO like is to empty the change from my purse every few days, and then a couple of times a year I’ll bring it to the Coinstar machine and it will be between $50-$100. I don’t notice it a bit, but it adds up.


Carolee November 12, 2009 at 4:55 am

I was the type that would occaisionally check my balance, and then spend or not spend depending on how much was left. I have ING Direct automatically withdraw money for savings – and started with $5 a week. Then $25. Slowly increasing, but it is still money that “secretly disappears”, and then it doesn’t get spent.

I like the idea of controlling the withdrawls myself, and I can also predict what my totals will be. The bigger the savings get, the more I want to save. And sometimes knowing that $25 a week will be well over $1200 in a year is a good motivator.

And then on top of that, bigger amounts of unexpected money get moved over.


Melanie November 12, 2009 at 5:40 am

I kind of like this, too. Our bank does it also, but you have to have your debit card run as a credit card for it to work. We just started it a couple of weeks ago, so we really have yet to see any tangible benefits, but I’ll be interested to see what comes of it.


Jenn H November 12, 2009 at 6:19 am

I have USAA & any time you run your debit card as a credit card they just give you 1% back. They add it all up & tack it on at the end of the month when they add your interest. Yes, on this account you also get interest any day your account is over $100. And they automatically rebate any ATM fees charged by other banks. They, of course, don’t charge you ATM fees. So at the end of each month when your statement cuts there are just these 3 nice little additions to your account. I heart USAA!


Colleen November 12, 2009 at 6:44 am

My husband and I have used the program for a couple of years now. I think when we signed up they did the match for the first six months. In those couple years we have probably added $500 or $600 to our savings.


Nancy from Mass November 12, 2009 at 6:57 am

I am a BofA customer and participated in this a few years ago when they first started the program. But as Angela said, it made your statement 10x longer and a mess. I actually stopped participating in it when hubby was laid off and I couldn’t afford to have extra change every day transferred. (most of my bills are paid by debit electronically and the extra pennies from those were transferring over.)It is a good program, but not for people who are watching their every pennies.


Jordan November 12, 2009 at 7:12 am

I am a BofA customer and agree- it makes my statement a mess. I use to track my budget (which I HIGHLY recommend) and having the small amounts transferred looks cluttery, which is annoying. However, I just got my first year’s ‘match’ deposited. (They match 100% of the change for 3 months, then only 5%- which is not a lot!) It was about $32, which is ‘free money’. Though my statements are cluttery and messy, I think it’s worth the $32. I don’t use my debit card a ton (I try to use cash to keep myself in check- I’m a grad student and have a tight budget) so I’d imagine if I used it more, I’d have more like $50 for a year’s match. (And an equally longer, cluttery statement.)


Lisa November 12, 2009 at 8:15 am

Personally, I prefer saving on my own. Thanks to the other readers for all their great posts on saving methods.


Emily November 12, 2009 at 8:52 am

I’d just like to mention that the guy in the commercial doesn’t even swipe the magnetic strip of his card. Take a look if you see the commercial again, it made me laugh. 🙂


Kris-ND November 12, 2009 at 9:40 am

We are BofA customers, and always thought we should sign up for this, but we are trying to slowly transfer all our income over to our local bank, and decided not to sign up for another program. Looks like we made the right choice since it seems it makes your statement more of a pain.

Instead, we do our own home version of this. If I am at a store that will allow me to pay by check or debit card for more than the amount owed, I always round-up to the next dollar and take the change home for our “extra” bucket.

I have a big flour canister, and instead of holding 5lbs of flour, we fill it up with change. I fill up the change from rounding up a check, and we fill it with every other bit of change we run across from pocket change at the end of the day to change run across while out and about.

When the change gets pretty full(most of the change is quarters and dimes for some reason), we use it for something extra.

2 years ago, there was a just perfect birthday gift I really wanted to get my husband. It was 80.00. The kids and I cashed in the canister came away with 86.00.

I want to thank you for making me turn my attention back to the value of change. ALL change, not just quarters. I have been very lax over the year with discarding change. I would drop it and just leave it, etc. You have taught me to not just keep track of my own change, but not just discard that penny in the parking lot.

Thanks 🙂


chppie November 12, 2009 at 10:45 am

I don’t use this plan but I do empty out my purse regularly into our change machine. The battery operated coin machines are great because you can see the wrappers fill up and don’t have to pay a grocery store coin machine to count your cash. I also like adding a freshly wrapped roll to our basket. We also use to for vacation extras or a family Christmas present.

This time of year the machines are usually on sale as they are a popular holiday present.


hiptobeme November 12, 2009 at 12:47 pm

We just hand rolled all of our coins as a family, it was about six months worth. What fun! All our pennies are actually worth something! We are all much more motivated to put change in the jar now and everytime we see a penny, my son is excited to save it in the jar. There’s nothing like a big pile of money to act as a visual aid to save.


Sara November 12, 2009 at 12:54 pm

I use the Keep the Change program and believe it makes keeping track of my checkbook easier. I just round each debit card purchase up to the whole dollar amount when I enter it. (I write down the actual amount, then the rounded amount after it.) This means I’m subtracting whole dollar amounts for the most part when I’m balancing my checkbook and not dealing with change. (I just check my online statements to make sure B of A is putting the change in my savings account, though I don’t calculate that down to the dime.)


Jeanine November 12, 2009 at 2:13 pm

I heart BoA!!!!

Like Sara….just round up your purchase. I’ve no idea what my statement looks like, because I get it electronicly (sp), so as not to waste the paper. It’s easy enough to read online. All I’m really interested in is the balance, and the deposits. Anytime after the 9th of the month, that’s play money anyway, so I’m all about using a program to get some of it back.


fairydust November 12, 2009 at 2:17 pm

I opted to not do this with BofA even though I have a cc and a checking account with them. It’s a long story, but basically I get ding’d by BofA on a regular basis for their own mistakes, and my accounts have been screwed up countless times as a result. They always end up correcting these mistakes, but I shudder to think of what would happen if I add yet another feature like this one (and open a savings account to go with). So I won’t, although I really like the idea. If it were being offered by a cc company I’ve had a better history with (like Citi or Chase), then I would most like participate.


WilliamB November 12, 2009 at 2:38 pm

USAA is great, period. They treated me very well even when I wasn’t a customer (got rear-ended by a very apologetic USAA insuree).

PenFed has an even better credit card deal: 5% off on gas, 2% at supermarket, 1.25% for everything else, and other rebate promotions. Recently it was 5% on airline tix and back-to-school.


Ms. Clear November 12, 2009 at 3:32 pm

The idea doesn’t gel with me. I really prefer to pay cash and I feel that the point of the program, from BofA’s perspective is to condition people to use their card for every little purchase, which generates merchant fees and overdraft fees among those who struggle to watch their money.

We save with ING and mostly use cash for purchases.


Hydra November 12, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Just a note for Angela, regarding Coinstar: If I’m not mistaken, Coinstar pulls out 7 or 8% of your money as a fee for converting to bills. Most banks will take your change and convert it to cash for free (presuming you have an account there). I’d much rather do that than let Coinstar have a percentage of my money.


Angela November 12, 2009 at 5:18 pm

Hydra- thanks for the note! I didn’t know that.

I don’t get paper statements and haven’t for a long time, but I use my electronic statements for taxes and budget, and that is why having all those extra entries just didn’t make sense for me. I’m not saying it wouldn’t work for everyone.


Kristin November 12, 2009 at 6:42 pm

I participate in Keep the Change, and I love it. I don’t mind the extra entries on my statement since I just add them all up and enter in one big amount when balancing in Quicken once a month. It’s a nice addition to the regular savings allotment that I actively deposit.

I don’t love BofA, but have managed to avoid getting dinged by them over the 20 some years they’ve been my bank. I take cash out while shopping rather than at ATMs and use online banking as much as possible to make sure I stay on top of the balance.


magdalena November 12, 2009 at 7:01 pm

I am a to-the-penny kind of budgeter. I’ve seen this programme, but don’t think I’d use it because I need to know exactly what is in that account. I use a coin jar in the closet, and once emptied it after about a year, rolled the coins one afternoon, and told my husband I’d found some money. He thought I meant $5 or $10 but it was $98+! And that did not include lonnies and toonies, which I don’t coin-jar. (For uninformed Americans, these are the $1 and $2 Canadian coins.)


Emily November 12, 2009 at 9:42 pm
Keema November 12, 2009 at 9:59 pm

I have a Bank of America account, but don’t see the point of using the keep the change program. I have a small income and do not make many purchases anyway. But, my BofA accounts are linked together. I can transfer from checking to savings by just calling their phone banking line.


Aleta November 13, 2009 at 7:40 am

The problem with programs like these is that the banks are charging the vendors a fee for you to use your card. Which, as you guessed it, raises prices at the stores and probably just makes the banks more money. Instead of banking with the super-mega-monster banks, we choose to bank at a local credit union. Truly a breath of fresh air. (Rivermark) And they also count our loose change for free. Most banks/credit unions do.


Kathy November 13, 2009 at 8:19 am

I pay cash for small purchases and only use bills, no change. The change I get back stays in my pocket for the rest of the day. That night, it goes into my change jar.

Some day I hope to pay for small purchases only with $5 bills (or higher) and put all the change I get back (including bills) into the jar. Mentally and financially, I’m not quite there yet. 🙂


Tony Wolk November 13, 2009 at 11:30 am

I too think of the charge to the vendors. My father was a retail furrier (i.e, a small businessman). Once credit cards appeared on the scene, wily customers would ask if there was a discount for cash (knowing about the vendor’s fee).

I tried that with Smith’s Home Furnishings some years back and they said “No discount.” I thought, “Stupid businessman–why should I buy from these guys.” What particularly irritated me was that there was no one on-site to take responsibility for such anomalous moments. I still prefer to write a check for large purchases (auto repair, etc.), without asking for a discount. Just to help out a small business versus a national bank, which makes its profits parasitically. (Credit unions and local banks are a different animal.)


Alicia November 13, 2009 at 12:17 pm

I go to my bank once a month and deposit all my leftover change. For free. Coinstar charges a fee. With Bank of America’s keep the change you have to keep using your card. And be disciplined not to spend more. Since I used to overspend on the debit card I am better on the envelope system. Not so good for BoA’s keep the change but great for the change jar.


WilliamB November 13, 2009 at 7:30 pm

It’s 8.75%. Since we don’t have fractions of a penny that comes out to 9%. It’s highway robbery and no self-respecting frugal person should fall for it.

Not only will your bank likely roll your coins for you, some banks will do it whether or not you have an account there.


Shannon Williams February 4, 2010 at 11:21 pm

I too do the majority of my banking with a local credit union, but I’ve been real tempted to open an account with BofA. The idea of putting my spare change directly into a savings account, matched up to $250 by BofA per year, instead of my water-cooler bottle is appealing..


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