The earnings news out of Bank of America Corp. Monday was glum, with announcement that first quarter saw a 77 percent drop in net income. However, most media overlooked a bright spot: Total deposits rose to $797.1 billion in the first quarter from $692.8 billion in the like year-ago period.
Impressed with that deposit growth in uncertain times and researching a safe haven to park funds, Grumpy Editor noticed a newspaper full-page color ad pitching a B of A “Risk Free CD.”
While the upper fourth of the page shows plain blue sky (over a couple running their dogs), details on the CD are nil, other than the usual trifle material: “access your money when you really need it; get a fixed rate of return; FDIC insured.”
Going to a Web site indicated in the ad adds a tiny bit of information, “Just $5,000 minimum to open.” That’s a clue. Although at the bottom of the page is a line stating, “The Annual Percentage Yield (APY) is accurate as of 04/21/08,” someone forgot to put in a figure.
Still no solid details, such as term and rate.
In three separate attempts, exploration of the B of A Web site for information on the ad-spotlighted CD proves futile.
Clicking on “open a CD” on the “Risk Free CD” page gets nowhere. Typing in “savings rates” or “CD rates” on the B of A site get a startling “no answers found” phrase in stoplight red. Punching in simply “CD” or “rates” gets puzzling 2003 and 2004 annual report information. Going back and typing “Risk Free CD” also gets the “no answers found” result.
But wait. There is an 800 number on the site that welcomes questions. Dialing that gets a robotic male voice with a hearty, “Welcome to Bank of America” immediately followed by Spanish. But unless one has an account number, that phone number --- with multiple not-applicable options --- also leads to a dead end.
So Grumpy Editor, via Google, finds a non-B of A site that promises information on the elusive “Risk Free CD.” But, in these days of fast-changing rates, it contains 17-day-old information indicating the term is nine months with a rather low 2.7 percent APY rate. Still, that couldn’t be confirmed and it was time to terminate the CD-info hunt.
Bottom line in financial advertising: Give time-limited readers/prospects as many details as possible up front. Curb obstacles. Make phone (hopefully with humans available) and Web access easy --- without barriers.