0% Intro APR for 12 Billing Cycles (for balance transfers made in the first 60 days)
13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
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Behind the Issuer: Bank of America
By: Brittney Mayer
CardRates.com Guide: Bank of America®
The evolution of Bank of America into one of the largest banks and credit card issuers in the world closely parallels the growth of banking in America. The history of the banking industry is one of mergers and consolidations, acquisitions and takeovers. It also involves a lot of regulations and government approvals.
Since Bank of America is a conglomeration of many different banks — each of which had been formed from various mergers and acquisitions — a family tree would look somewhat messy. Instead, let’s take a closer look at the institution we currently know as Bank of America.
Bank of America’s Origins
In 1904, an Italian-American named Amadeo Giannini opened the Bank of Italy in San Francisco to serve its immigrant and working-class population. Prior to that time, banks had only been for the wealthy, and Giannini recognized a need among new immigrants to access loans. The Bank of Italy thrived, even remaining open immediately after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
In 1927, Giannini consolidated his Bank of Italy with Liberty Bank of America and merged with Bank of America, Los Angeles in 1928 to form the largest banking institution in the U.S. at the time. However, the company still held the Bank of Italy name until 1930, when it was renamed Bank of America.
With his philosophy of bringing banking services to regular folks rather than just the wealthy, Giannini was meeting a need other banks ignored. Bank of America thrived, even during the Great Depression. Expansion into the insurance business led to the creation of Transamerica Corporation, which was spun off in 1953.
Bank of America’s success also led to growth outside of California until the federal government decided to limit interstate banking. First Interstate Bancorp was formed out of Bank of America’s institutions outside the state of California.
In 1958, the bank introduced BankAmericard, the first credit card intended for the general public and the first to be licensed to other banks. In 1976, BankAmericard changed its name and became what we now know as VISA.
Mergers and Acquisitions
As banking regulations changed in the 1980s, Bank of America once again expanded to other states, acquiring banks in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, and Nevada. Banks that eventually resulted from these acquisitions include U.S. Bancorp and KeyBank.
Other mergers with banks that stretched eastward across the country helped Bank of America grow into the largest U.S. bank by the mid-1990s, but all of that was about to change.
In 1998, Bank of America was acquired by NationsBank — then the fastest growing bank in the country. However, they kept the Bank of America name and continued expansion, including FleetBoston Financial and MBNA, as well as International banks in South America and the Netherlands.
During the mortgage crisis that began in 2007, Bank of America acquired Countrywide Financial, one of the largest mortgage companies in the U.S. They also acquired financial services firm, Merrill Lynch, in 2008, saving that company from certain bankruptcy.
Bank of America Today
What started as a small bank serving San Francisco's immigrants is now a multinational financial institution with branches and ATMs around the world. Bank of America still holds to its original purpose of bringing banking to the masses, however, as evidenced by its diverse product lineup, including a range of credit cards designed for nearly every lifestyle and credit type.
Bank of America now serves one out of every two households in America and most Fortune 500 companies.
Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
The information on this page was reviewed for accuracy on .
About the Author
Brittney Mayer Finance Contributor
Brittney is a Credit Strategist and Finance Expert who has spent years honing her knowledge of the credit industry both personally and professionally. Brittney applies her more than a decade of research experience to crafting in-depth consumer guides designed to help CardRates readers make better, more informed financial decisions.
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