Wells Fargo Bank Review

The ultimate in one-stop banking, but the name remains tarnished

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Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo

Founded in 1852 in the midst of the California gold rush, Wells Fargo has been a major player in American finance for nearly 170 years and ranks as the fourth-largest bank in the country. Plagued by several high-profile scandals in the mid-2010s, the bank has been working to rehabilitate its image and regain trust by focusing on customer service and technological innovations.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Company Overview
Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Highly accessible — numerous locations

  • Frequently waived monthly fees

  • Innovative, secure data-sharing, and money management apps

Cons
  • Low interest rates

  • Overdraft fees levied up to three times daily

  • History of costly scandals

Company Overview
  • Year Founded 1852
  • Official Website www.wellsfargo.com
  • Banking Products Offered Savings, checking, CDs, credit cards
  • Customer Service 24/7 Phone: 1-800-869-3557

Pros Explained

  • Highly accessible — numerous locations: With approximately 4,900 branches and over 13,000 ATMs across 37 states and the District of Columbia, Wells Fargo is one of the more easily accessible large banks in the United States.
  • Frequently waived monthly fees: While Wells Fargo does levy maintenance fees on many of its deposit accounts, the bank does provide a number of methods for avoiding them. Most clients can easily qualify for one of the many waivers.
  • Innovative, secure data-sharing, and money management apps: In 2017, Wells Fargo partnered with Intuit to provide a seamless and completely secure connection for customers who use Mint, QuickBooks online and TurboTax online. This pioneering move allows Wells Fargo customers to easily share data with these Intuit products so they can handle their financial chores without risking their accounts' security.

Cons Explained

  • Low interest rates: Account APYs tend to skew lower at traditional brick-and-mortar banks than at their online counterparts. Still, Wells Fargo offers very lackluster rates (currently 0.01%-0.02%) on all of its savings options. In addition, every savings account also carries a monthly fee, meaning your account may essentially earn a negative amount if you are unable to avoid the charge — if your account dips below the minimum daily balance, for example.
  • Overdraft fees levied up to three times daily: Wells Fargo charges a $35 overdraft fee for its Debit Card Overdraft Service every time you overdraw your account. Unfortunately, the bank's policies allow up to three overdrafts per day, meaning you could be staring down $105 in overdraft fees from a single day's mistakes. On the other hand, if you've signed up for Overdraft Protection, you will be charged one fee per business day, but the fee amount will depend on type of account from which the funds are withdrawn to cover the overdraft.
  • History of costly scandals: In 2016, news began to emerge that for years, Wells Fargo employees had engaged in illegal practices — behavior that resulted in extra charges for customers and opening fake accounts, along with improperly repossessed homes and autos. and has been forced to pay billions in fines imposed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Who Is Wells Fargo Best For?

Wells Fargo will appeal to customers who want a well-established traditional bank with a large geographic footprint. It will be a great fit for those who:

  • Need a bank that is present in the majority of the United States, including the District of Columbia
  • Can easily keep a minimum balance in their checking and savings account to avoid fees
  • Want to use Mint, QuickBooks online, or TurboTax online to handle their accounting and financial affairs

What Does Wells Fargo Offer?

Wells Fargo has a full array of the usual financial products and services for their customers. These include:

  • Savings accounts
  • Checking accounts
  • Certificates of deposit
  • Credit cards

Savings Accounts

Created specifically to encourage savings, the Wells Fargo Way2Save Savings Account has a low minimum deposit of $25 and a monthly service fee of $5, which can be waived with either a $300 minimum daily balance or by setting up automatic transfers from linked Wells Fargo checking accounts. In addition, Wells Fargo automatically waives the monthly fee for account holders under the age of 24.

Another savings encouragement is the Save As You Go® transfer, which moves $1 from your Wells Fargo checking account to your Way2Save account with each qualifying transaction. These transactions include any non-recurring debit card purchases and any time you pay a bill using the Wells Fargo online bill pay option.

Wells Fargo also touts the use of your Way2Save account as a method of overdraft protection for customers who also have checking accounts. If you sign up for this optional service, Wells Fargo will transfer money from your Way2Save account into your checking account to cover an overdraft. However, this service doesn't prevent you from being charged a $12.50 overdraft fee once per business day. The fee can be avoided if a covering transfer or deposit is made on the same business day.

The APY on Way2Save accounts is currently set at 0.01% and is collected on the daily account balances.

Wells Fargo's Platinum Savings account comes with the option to write checks. They also don't have any restrictions on the number of monthly withdrawals you can make from the account.

Savers can expect an APY of 0.01% with Platinum Savings, but there is a relationship bonus APY of 0.02% if you also link a Portfolio Relationship by Wells Fargo account (see below). Close the qualifying checking account and you lose the bonus rate.

Customers can open a Platinum Savings account with only $25 and there is no minimum balance requirement to earn interest. However, there is a $12 monthly fee that can only be waived by maintaining a $3,500 minimum daily balance.

Wells Fargo Savings Accounts
Account Name Minimum Opening Deposit Monthly Fee Fee Waivers APY
Way2Save $25 $5 $300 minimum daily balance OR automatic savings transfers 0.01%
Platinum Savings $25 $12 $3,500 minimum daily balance 0.01%

Checking Accounts

Everyday Checking is Wells Fargo's basic checking account option, the one that may appeal to a majority of customers. You can open an account with $25, but expect to pay a $10 monthly fee unless you meet one of the following waiver requirements:

  • Have $500 or more in qualifying direct deposits per month
  • Maintain a $500 minimum daily balance
  • Be between the age of 17 and 24
  • Are a college student with a linked Wells Fargo Campus ATM or Campus Debit Card

While it is relatively easy to avoid the monthly fee, make sure you're aware of the other charges you may face, including a $2.50 out-of-network ATM fee and a $35 overdraft fee if you overdraw your account. If you sign up for Overdraft Protection with a linked savings account, you can avoid the painful $35 fee, but you will still have to pony up a $12.50 transfer fee when the money moves from savings to checking.

Overdraft Rewind

All deposit account holders have the opportunity to reverse overdrafts with the Overdraft Rewind. Here's how it works: if you make an ACH deposit that covers the overdraft by 9:00 a.m., Wells Fargo will recalculate your balance from the previous day to include the ACH deposit and may reverse any overdrafts or returned items that would have otherwise resulted without the addition of the deposit.

As the bank's premium checking account, Portfolio by Wells Fargo offers customers a number of major perks. At its core, the Portfolio account is an interest-bearing checking account, although the 0.01% APY is not currently impressive. Expect a $25 per month maintenance fee, unless you maintain a minimum of $20,000 (combined) in your linked accounts at the end of each statement period.

There are additional perks available to Portfolio account holders that can potentially make up for the low APY. Specifically, account holders also enjoy the following:

  • Fee-free Wells Fargo Personal Wallet checks, cashier's checks and money orders
  • One overdraft Protection fee from an eligible, linked savings account is waived per fee period
  • Discounts on interest rates on select new loans and lines of credit

Account-holders who keep a qualifying balance of more than $250,000 also have fees waived on incoming wires, stop payments and Overdraft Protection transfers, as well as unlimited reimbursement of out-of-network ATM fees within the U.S and worldwide.

Finally, Portfolio customers are also granted access to Wells Fargo advisors for investment guidance, as well as discounts on the Wells Fargo Intuitive Investor account and the WellsTrade Online and Mobile Brokerage.

Young people looking for an opportunity to manage their own money might consider Wells Fargo Clear Access BankingSM. It's available for minors aged 13 to 16, with an adult co-owner.

Like the other checking accounts on this list, Clear Access BankingSM comes with a debit card that the account-holder may use for spending and ATM withdrawals. You can set up alerts to notify you of certain account activities.

The account can be opened with a $25 minimum deposit and the $5 monthly fee can be waived if the primary account holder is 13-24 years old.

Wells Fargo Checking Accounts
Account Name Minimum Opening Deposit Monthly Fee Fee Waivers APY
Everyday Checking $25 $10 10 debit card transactions, OR $1,500 minimum daily balance, OR $500 in direct deposit None
Portfolio by Wells Fargo $25 $30 $25,000 in combined linked bank deposits, OR $50,000 in linked bank, brokerage, and credit balances 0.01%
Clear Access BankingSM $25 $5 Primary account holder is 13-24 years old None

Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

Wells Fargo offers several different CD products and there are some bonus APY offers for Portfolio by Wells Fargo account-holders.

The Fixed Rate CD offers several terms with a minimum opening deposit of $2,500.

Wells Fargo Fixed Rate CDs
Term Minimum Opening Deposit APY Bonus APY
3 months $2,500 0.01% 0.02%
6 months $2,500 0.01% 0.02%
1 year $2,500 0.01% 0.02%

Credit Cards

Wells Fargo offers credit cards that can meet nearly any banking or credit need, from cash-back cards to rewards cards to cards that are well-suited to balance transfers. Here are some of the cards that Wells Fargo offers:

Cash-back Credit Cards

  • Wells Fargo Active CashSM Card

Rewards Cards

  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card
  • Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card

Cards for Balance Transfers

  • Wells Fargo Platinum Card

Other Financial Products Offered by Wells Fargo

In addition to deposit accounts and credit cards, Wells Fargo also offers the following products and services to its customers:

  • Car loans
  • Purchase mortgages
  • Refinance mortgages
  • IRAs
  • Self-directed trading
  • Managed investment portfolios
  • Private banking
  • Financial advisors
  • Business loans
  • Personal loans
  • Student loans

Wells Fargo Customer Service

Customers can reach Wells Fargo customer service agents in a variety of ways, including:

  • Phone, available 24/7 (1-800-869-3557)
  • Mail
  • Facebook, available 7 days a week
  • Twitter, available 7 days a week
  • A comprehensive Help section on the Wells Fargo site

Wells Fargo also offers a highly-rated mobile app that allows you to conduct your banking business on the go. The app is currently has a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars on the App Store and 4.8 out of 5 on Google Play.

A Tarnished Reputation

Beginning in 2016, a seemingly endless series of scandals beset Wells Fargo: the creation of phony accounts, the unauthorized purchase of insurance policies for clients, improper auto-loan and mortgage practices, and the alteration of customer data, which were only admitted to after investigations by journalists and regulators. Wells Fargo has paid billions in government fines, criminal and civil lawsuit settlements, and restitution to injured parties. Nevertheless, it seems likely that the revelations of the bank's malfeasance continue to tarnish its image in a skeptical public's eyes. According to the 2020 J.D. Power and Associates Retail Banking and Satisfaction Study, Wells Fargo ranks below the average satisfaction level in every region except Lower Midwest.

How to Bank with Wells Fargo

Potential customers can open a new Wells Fargo account online or in a bank branch. Applying for an account online also provides an instant application status response.

Once you are set up with a Wells Fargo account, you can take care of your banking needs online and with the mobile app.

Verdict

Customers looking for a well-established and well-rounded financial institution may do well with Wells Fargo. Not only does this bank possess a large geographic footprint, but it also has every type of account, product and service you may need — a true one-stop banking shop. Add in the fact that you can enjoy some relationship bonuses for linking multiple accounts or products under the Wells Fargo umbrella and this institution is a clear winner for anyone who values efficiency and streamlined banking experience. That said, Wells Fargo has not yet earned back the public's trust after the revelations from 2016 to 2018, of a series of systemic fraudulent practices that victimized its own clients for nearly two decades. While the bank is working to correct its course — in February 2020, it agreed to pay $3 billion in fines to settle a civil lawsuit and resolve a Justice Department criminal prosecution — consumers might understandably like to wait and see if any more ugly shoes drop before trusting their money to this institution. Unless Wells Fargo can offer more tempting interest rates or find other ways to distinguish its products, its dented reputation — coupled with lackluster rates — makes it a less-enticing option for anyone who is not looking specifically for convenience.

Methodology

Investopedia is dedicated to providing consumers with unbiased, comprehensive reviews of banks. We collected more than 20 data points across more than 80 banks including products available, interest rates, fees and accessibility to ensure that our content helps users make the right decision for their savings and banking needs.

Article Sources

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  1. Intuit Inc. "Intuit Signs New Data-Exchange Agreement With Wells Fargo." Accessed August 9, 2021.

  2. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Wells Fargo to Pay $500 Million For Misleading Investors About the Success of Its Largest Business Unit." Accessed August 9, 2021.

  3. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Announces Settlement With Wells Fargo For Auto-Loan Administration and Mortgage Practices." Accessed August 9, 2021.

  4. App Store Preview. "Wells Fargo Mobile." Accessed August 9, 2021.

  5. Google Play. "Wells Fargo Mobile." Accessed August 9, 2021.

  6. J.D. Power. "U.S. Retail Banks Nail Transition to Digital During Pandemic, J.D. Power Finds." Accessed August 9, 2021.

  7. Department of Justice. "Wells Fargo Agrees to Pay $3 Billion to Resolve Criminal and Civil Investigations Into Sales Practices Involving the Opening of Millions of Accounts Without Customer Authorization." Accessed August 9, 2021.