Wells Fargo Review

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Wells Fargo Review

Wells Fargo has been in business for more than 160 years, and it has weathered some of the biggest financial storms in U.S. history. While it’s adapted to the times by incorporating modern technology, it still offers customers face-to-face service with thousands of branches in 40 states.

Wells Fargo could be a good option for you if you prefer the stability of a well-established bank and the convenience of having nearby branches. That said, you will sacrifice some of the perks that online-first banks offer — Wells Fargo has relatively low APYs for its savings accounts, and many of its accounts come with monthly fees. You can avoid these by maintaining minimum balance requirements, but it’s still a hassle in an age when many online banks remove those thresholds entirely. Before signing up with Wells Fargo, make sure to weigh your priorities when it comes to in-person customer service versus good rates.

Pros
Cons
13,000 Wells Fargo ATMs
Automatic online bill pay
Account alerts to warn customers about balance, payments, or deposits
No liability for stolen debit cards
Mobile deposits
Relatively low interest rates
Monthly fees
Extra fees for overdraft protection

The Claim

Wells Fargo claims that it can “help you achieve your goals” and that you can “expect more from your checking account.”

Is it true?

The main area where Wells Fargo helps you “achieve your goals” is through its highly rated app. In addition to usual functions like reviewing account activity and depositing checks, Wells Fargo’s app allows you to track your investments and establish a digital wallet.

The company’s claims about its checking accounts are a little less clear. Aside from the benefits you get from the mobile app, Wells Fargo’s checking accounts offer little in the way of unique perks. The basic checking account doesn’t earn any interest, and it also comes with a $10 monthly service fee unless you meet certain requirements, including either a $1,500 minimum daily balance or direct deposits totaling at least $500 per month.

The preferred checking account does earn some interest (currently a 0.01% APY in the Seattle area), but you must maintain a $10,000 balance, $1,000 in direct deposits per month, or a Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in order to avoid fees. You do have the convenience of thousands of Wells Fargo ATMs across the country, but that perk may not be worth it if you’re searching for a low-maintenance checking account.

What Wells Fargo Offers

Normal checking account

Pros
Cons
Reversal of overdraft fees if you make a deposit the next day
Complete protection against theft and fraud in connection with debit cards
Perks for students
No interest
Monthly maintenance fees

An Everyday Checking account with Wells Fargo is as basic as they come. Wells Fargo bills it as best for “customers who want convenience,” likely because of the banking features that come with Wells Fargo’s mobile app. The threshold to open an account is low: just a $25 minimum deposit. However, you’ll have to keep more in your account if you want to avoid the $10 monthly service fee. In order to waive the fee, you’ll have to maintain at least 10 debit card transactions, $500 in direct deposits, or a $1,500 minimum daily balance each month.

That said, there is one group that may benefit from this account: students. Account holders who are 17 to 24 years old or who have a linked Campus Debit Card waive the monthly fee automatically, so it could be a good way to maintain a basic bank account while away at school.

Interest-bearing checking accounts

Pros
Cons
$25 minimum to open account
Links with Wells Fargo home mortgage for easier payments
Platinum debit card with chip technology
Budgeting tools
Text banking
Monthly fees
ATM fees

A Wells Fargo Preferred Checking or Portfolio account are good options for people who have higher balances in their accounts and want to earn (an albeit small amount of) interest. In order to avoid service fees, Preferred Checking members must maintain a $10,000 balance or deposit at least $1,000 per month, and Portfolio members must maintain a $50,000 balance or at least $25,000 in deposits. While rates may depend on your location, Preferred Checking and Portfolio accounts earn APYs up to 0.01% and 0.05%, respectively, in the Seattle area. These aren’t staggeringly high rates, but it may be worth looking into if you tend to keep high balances anyway.

Savings accounts

Pros
Cons
$25 minimum to open account
Automatic saving plans
Monthly fees
Low APY

Wells Fargo’s Way2Save Savings account provides some useful features, particularly the ability to get rid of an overdraft fee by making a transfer into your checking account. It also encourages good savings habits, with the option to transfer $1 from your checking account to your savings account every time you make a non-recurring debit card purchase or pay your bill online. You can also opt to automatically transfer $25 or more from your checking to your savings each month, or $1 or more daily. It’s a thoughtful touch that makes saving just a little easier. The biggest drawback is the account’s monthly fees and low APY — you’ll only earn 0.01%, and you must maintain a $300 daily minimum balance or set up an automatic savings option in order to avoid the monthly fee.

The Platinum Savings comes with all of the same benefits, plus the added ability to write checks. The APY still isn’t great, but it’s slightly higher: up to 0.10%. However, you must maintain a $3,500 minimum daily balance in order to avoid monthly fees.

CDs

Pros
Cons
Variety of term lengths
Step Rate option with increasing APYs
Special CDs with higher rates
Average to low APYs

Wells Fargo’s CD rates are higher than those for its savings and checking accounts, but they still fall short of the rates from many other other banks. While banks like Capital One advertise APYs of up to 2.00%, even Wells Fargo’s “special” CDs — which offer more limited terms but higher APYs — cap out at 1.55%. Its standard CDs are even lower, with rates currently capping at 0.40%. Wells Fargo’s one draw is its Step Rate CD, a 24-month CD that guarantees three rate increases over the course of the term. The base rate currently sits at a maximum APY of 1.21%, but you can make a penalty-free withdrawal within five days of each rate increase. This gives you some flexibility in accessing your funds, a perk that not many banks offer.

Product Overview

  • In business since: 1852
  • J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Online Banking Satisfaction Study score: 2/5
  • FDIC-insured: Yes
  • States served: 50
  • Number of locations: 5,400
  • Pros: Highly rated mobile app, lots of physical locations
  • Cons: Low rates and poor customer satisfaction

Features

Checking accounts
Minimum opening deposits required
Monthly maintenance fees
Interest-bearing accounts require high balances
Savings accounts
Minimum opening deposits required
Monthly maintenance fees
Automatic transfers from linked checking account
CDs
Average APYs
Variety of term lengths
Option for increasing APYs

Information accurate as of December 16, 2019.

Well-established history

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the stability of a banking institution is more important than ever. Wells Fargo, with a long history of solid banking practices, has been around for longer than some of the states in the union, and it has managed to survive the worst financial crises the nation has ever faced. With $1.8 trillion in assets, Wells Fargo is a huge force in the banking world. Because of its resiliency and careful treatment of your money, Wells Fargo provides a secure place to keep and invest your funds. Forbes ranked Wells Fargo in the top 100 banks in the United States in terms of growth, credit quality, and profitability.

Convenient mobile banking

Despite the bank’s many branch locations, you may prefer to do the vast majority of your banking online. Banking on your smartphone with Wells Fargo is a breeze. Not only can you transfer money freely between accounts, but you can also pay your bills, deposit checks, and see quick insights into your accounts. Customers agree on the app’s utility, giving it a 4.7 out of five on Google Play and a 4.8 out of five on the Apple App Store.

Physical presence

One of Wells Fargo’s best features is its many branches spread across the U.S. With 5,400 options, it isn’t hard for customers to find a place to sit down and talk with a representative. It also offers more than 13,000 ATMs, meaning you have lots of options to access your money for free. With many banks turning to an online-only model, Wells Fargo could be worth your time if you still prefer in-person interactions for much of your banking.

Possible drawbacks

Low APYs

Wells Fargo offers some of the lowest APYs in the banking world, particularly on its checking and savings accounts, often capping out at an APY of no more than 0.05%. Its CDs are no different, with comparatively low APYs regardless of how much you deposit or the length of the CD’s term. Rates depend on your location, but an account in Seattle caps at a 1.55% APY for a “special” CD. To get the most out of your money, try looking into banks like Capital One or TIAA Bank, which offer flexible terms and generally higher returns.

Relatively high minimum balances required to avoid fees

Almost all of Wells Fargo’s accounts — checking and savings — require hefty minimum balances in order to avoid monthly fees. Even its basic checking account, which is advertised for “customers who have lower account balances,” requires a minimum daily balance of at least $1,500 in order to avoid the $10 monthly fee. For people who may struggle with maintaining a high balance, this could be a significant challenge, especially when many online banks charge zero fees.

Low customer satisfaction scores

In J.D. Power’s evaluation of banks’ online experience, Wells Fargo fell near the bottom of the pack with a score of two out of five. The survey evaluated customer satisfaction with all aspects of the online experience, including range of services, clarity of information, and ease of navigation. Additionally, in a separate J.D. Power study evaluating customers’ satisfaction with banks’ products and fees, account opening, and convenience, Wells Fargo fell to last place or near last place in every region. These are concerning metrics, though they may reflect what we’ve already pointed out: Wells Fargo charges more fees and offers lower rates than many of its competitors, and it likely suffers for it.

The Competition

Wells Fargo** Bank of America Capital One TIAA Bank
J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Online Banking Satisfaction Study score
2/5 3/5 4/5 N/A
Minimum checking requirement*
$1,500 for Everyday Checking $10,000 for Preferred Checking $50,000 for Portfolio Checking $1,500 for Advantage Plus $10,000 for Advantage Relationship $0 $25 for basic account $0 for high-yield account
Minimum savings requirement*
$300 for Way2Save $3,500 for Platinum Savings $500 $0 $25
Maximum savings account APY
0.10% 0.06% 1.70% 1.10%
One-year CD APY
0.20 0.05% 2.00% 1.85% for basic account 2.10% for high-yield account
Monthly maintenance fees
$5-$30 or $0 with minimum account requirements $4.95-$25 or $0 with minimum account requirements $0 $5 or $0 with minimum account requirements $0 with high-yield checking account
24/7 customer service
Number of states served
50 50 50 50
Check rates Check rates Check rates Check rates

*Minimum required balance to waive monthly fees (if applicable) **Rates pulled for Seattle ZIP code

Information accurate as of December 16, 2019.

Wells Fargo FAQ

How do I apply for a business checking or savings account with Wells Fargo?

You can apply for all accounts either over the phone or in a local branch, and for most, you can also apply online.

Does Wells Fargo have ATM access?

Yes, Wells Fargo offers more than 13,000 ATMs. If you must use an out-of-network ATM, you’ll be charged $2.50 for each transaction, plus any fees from the ATM operator. Some accounts, like Portfolio, waive these fees entirely, and you may be able to waive the fee if you open your account in certain cities in New York. For more details, make sure to check your account terms or look into Wells Fargo’s list of service fees.

What fees does Wells Fargo charge?

All of Wells Fargo’s checking and savings accounts charge monthly fees, ranging from $5 to $30. There are ways to avoid these fees, but the minimum balances to do so are relatively high: starting at $1,500 for checking accounts and $300 for savings accounts.

The Bottom Line

Overall, we recommend Wells Fargo for people who want a secure, well-established bank. Even though the APYs on all products are low, customers can access their accounts using 13,000 ATMs and a full-featured mobile banking app. And for customers who enjoy in-person banking, it’s hard to beat Wells Fargo’s 5,400 branch locations spread throughout the country. However, if you want a higher return on your checking or savings accounts deposits and would rather not deal with the hassle of monthly fees, it may be better to start with a bank like Capital One or TIAA Bank.