From financing California Gold Rush expeditions to running a stagecoach delivery service on the frontier, Wells Fargo has long been an iconic American brand.
The bank’s logo and colors still nod to this history, but the company has grown into a comprehensive global leader in the financial services industry.
Based in San Francisco, Wells Fargo now serves more than 70 million customers in 35 countries around the world.
Consumer banking customers in the United States encounter Wells Fargo through its Sioux Falls, S.D.-based subsidiary Wells Fargo Bank, NA, which has more than 5,000 branches in 39 states.
As one of the “Big Four” American banks, Wells Fargo offers solid security within a wide and ever-growing stable of services.
Let’s take a closer look at the accounts and services Wells Fargo offers to see how the bank competes.
Wells Fargo Accounts and Services
Wells Fargo divides its services into three categories: Community Banking, Wholesale Banking, and Wealth/Brokerage/Retirement.
This breakdown may help executives and shareholders, but banking customers usually care more about the way specific accounts and loans work.
Below, we’ll look at individual products regardless of where they fit into Wells Fargo’s corporate structure.
First, we’ll focus on core products you’d use every day, then branch out into more peripheral needs.
Wells Fargo Checking Accounts
With Wells Fargo as your everyday bank, you’d most likely use one of the bank’s five checking accounts:
- Everyday Checking: An account designed mainly for college students and younger adults.
- Preferred Checking: A basic account whose balance can earn a small amount of interest.
- Portfolio Checking: An interest-earning account designed for customers with larger balances.
- Teen Checking: A parent-supervised account for 13- to 17-year-olds.
- Opportunity Checking: An account for people rebuilding their credit.
Most of these accounts require $25 to open. Most require monthly maintenance fees you can waive by meeting one of several conditions.
Customers age 17 to 24 will not be charged this account’s $10 fee. Other account holders can avoid the $10 fee by:
- posting 10 or more debit card transactions.
- receiving at least $500 in qualifying direct deposits. (A paycheck or Social Security payment would be a qualifying direct deposit; transferring money from another account would not.)
- keeping a $1,500 balance.
- linking the account to a Wells Fargo Campus ATM or Campus Debit Card.
Wells Fargo charges $35 per overdraft no more than three times per day. The bank offers several overdraft protection options we’ll get into below.
Account holders will be subject to $15 in monthly fees unless they:
- receive $1,000 in qualifying direct deposits.
- maintain $10,000 in balances across their Wells Fargo accounts.
- link the account to a Wells Fargo mortgage account.
Accounts with at least $500 will earn a small amount of interest on the balance. Though rates could change, it’s usually in the neighborhood of 0.01 percent.
This account’s $30 fee can be waived when account holders:
- have $25,000 in linked Wells Fargo accounts.
- have $50,000 in Wells Fargo brokerage or loan balances.
Balances of $50,000 or more can earn around 0.05 percent. While bigger than some other rates of return on checking balances, this rate remains significantly lower than a high-yield online savings account rate.
This account does not charge a monthly fee. Parents can set limits on how much 13- to 17-year-old (18 in Alabama) account holders can deposit or withdraw.
The bank charges Teen Checking account holders a lower overdraft fee of $15 no more than twice a day.
Only customers who do not qualify for another Wells Fargo account will be considered for this checking account, which charges a $10 monthly fee unless the account holder:
- Posts 10 or more debit card transactions.
- receives at least $500 in qualifying direct deposits.
- keeps a $1,500 balance.
You’d have to visit a branch in person to apply for an Opportunity Checking account.
Overdraft Protection Options
Wells Fargo charges $35 per overdraft whether it results from a check, ATM withdrawal, debit, or credit transaction. But you can link your checking account to a savings account or a credit card to avoid overdrafting your checking account.
Each time the bank automatically transfers money into checking to cover an overdraft, you’ll be charged a fee of $12.50. The fee could be higher if you’re using a credit card account to cover balances.
Wells Fargo Savings Accounts
Wells Fargo customers have access to two savings account options as well as certificates of deposit (CDs).
This savings account requires a $25 minimum balance and has a $5 monthly fee which you can avoid by:
- maintaining a balance of $300.
- maintaining a regular schedule of electronic deposits.
- being 18 or younger (19 or younger in Alabama).
You’ll earn a low annual interest rate around 0.01 percent, which is significantly lower than a high-yield savings account. If you’re planning to leave your money in savings for interest growth, this account won’t help as much.
However, advantages include the ability to link your account to a Wells Fargo checking account to avoid overdraft fees.
You can also set up automatically recurring deposits, such as $1 from checking every time you use your debit card.
This kind of interconnectedness between accounts can help you save money without making a point of doing so.
Wells Fargo’s Platinum Savings account rewards customers who have higher balances with better savings rates. The bank offers specials with rates approaching 0.3 percent for balances over $100,000.
A rate of 0.3 percent soars above 0.01 percent, but it’s still just a fraction of what you could find elsewhere.
Wells Fargo Fixed Rate CDs
A certificate of deposit from Wells Fargo unlocks higher interest rates on your savings. In return, you’ll agree to leave your money alone for the CD’s term.
In most cases, you’d need at least $2,500 to open a CD account with Wells Fargo. The bank doesn’t charge fees unless you withdraw early, in which case you should expect to pay at least a percentage of the interest already gained.
Like most large, full-service banks, Wells Fargo’s CDs won’t impress you with their standard interest rates.
You can find special, promotional rates to get you closer to 2 percent. But again, you can find better rates with an online bank like CIT Bank.
Wells Fargo Step Rate CDs
Wells Fargo distinguishes itself a little by offering a step-rate CD. Your rate would increase, usually by a quarter-point percentage of interest, every six months.
Typically, rates start lower than a standard CD’s rates and end the term with a higher-than-standard rate.
But you’ll always earn at the current interest rate. The increasing rates do not increase your earnings during previous, lower, periods of interest.
Wells Fargo Lending Services
Wells Fargo provides a wide variety of loans. Let’s look at some commonly used products.
Online mortgage brokers like Rocket Mortgage and PrimeLending have changed the way people get home loans, making it possible to see loan offers and get advice without visiting a branch.
Wells Fargo, a historic, national leader in mortgage originations, has upgraded its mortgage application experience, too. The bank now provides online tools and step-by-step guidance when you apply online.
Since the bank has thousands of branches, you can also apply in person.
What hasn’t changed is the bank’s wide variety of mortgage products, which include:
- New purchases: Applicants in a variety of life stages can find a well-fitted loan, including down payments as low as 3 percent for first-time home buyers.
- Refinances: The bank has a wide variety of terms if you’re looking to get into a new loan to reflect financial changes since you purchased your home.
- Home equity: If you’re renovating, Wells Fargo can assess your home’s value based on its renovated value and not its current value. You can get a line of credit or a fixed loan backed by your anticipated equity.
- Fixed and adjustable rates: Wells Fargo can offer competitive rates for both kinds of borrowing — fixed rate mortgages with level payments and adjustable rate mortgages which fluctuate with the market.
- Jumbo: Buying in a high-value area? A Wells Fargo jumbo mortgage can accommodate loans greater than $424,000.
- Subsidized: Wells Fargo is authorized to lend through FHA, VA, and USDA programs which help low income or rural homebuyers as well as veterans and active duty military members.
- Another strength: Wells Fargo’s relocation assistance programs for employees of many large companies who need to move.
Wells Fargo mortgage cons include:
- No pre-authorization: The bank does not use the pre-authorization process many online lenders now rely on to screen applicants and give customers an idea what kind of loans they could secure. However, with such a large network of branches, you could have a pre-qualification conversation with a loan officer.
- Third party application: Wells Fargo does not manage its own mortgage application process online. Instead, it uses a third-party system. Someone who’s concerned about privacy may not appreciate this additional layer of potential data exposure. But if you’re applying in a branch, this won’t be a factor.
Other Wells Fargo Loan Products
If you’re borrowing for college, a car, or to increase your spending power and build your credit, Wells Fargo’s loans can help:
- Auto loans: The bank has strengthened its auto loan options to include quick decisions and same day funding for many types. Loans include new purchases, used car purchases, refinancing, lease buyouts, and loans tailored for buying a vehicle from a private party.
- Credit cards: Wells Fargo issues credit cards, specializing in programs to consolidate high-interest debt, to claim rewards like cash back, and to rebuild low credit scores. Interest rates are typical for revolving loans.
- Student loans: Private student loans from Wells Fargo let you manage your debt using your mobile banking app rather than through a government-sponsored entity. Wells Fargo does not charge origination fees for student loans. The bank also lends for consolidation and lends directly to parents of students.
- Personal loans: Borrow to consolidate debt or for unexpected expenses; available as a fixed amount and a line of credit. You can also borrow against the value of your savings or CDs to unlock larger loans with lower interest rates.
Overall, Wells Fargo has modernized its loan application and debt management programs to compete against specialty online lenders which have gained market share in the past decade.
On their own, few of Wells Fargo’s loans will stand out in their market. But the convenience of having so many options available in one place helps make Wells Fargo more attractive as an everyday bank.
Investing and Advising with Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo Advisors, a separate subsidiary from Wells Fargo Bank, NA, offers an impressive variety of investing services and accounts. You can start a relationship with one of the company’s 19,000 certified financial advisors.
But you’d need to deposit $100,000 to access the full array of products, which is too steep a hurdle for many customers.
As robo-advisors have gained a larger market share, Wells Fargo Advisors has its own self-directed investment programs.
You’ll need to fund your robo-advising account with $10,000 within 90 days — a higher point of entry compared to many robo-advisors. Wells Fargo calls its robo-advising platform Intuitive Investor.
Wells Fargo Bank Investments
Beginning and intermediate investors who do not have $100,000 to open a Wells Fargo Advisors account can still get started with many Wells Fargo Bank, NA, investment accounts.
- Online trading: WellsTrade online trading charges a per-trade fee of $5.95 for stocks and ETFs which you can reduce to $2.95 if you have a Portfolio checking account.
- IRAs: Wells Fargo Bank’s Destination IRA (traditional or Roth) has no service fee and requires only $100 to open. Wells Fargo Advisors offers more elaborate IRA options.
- Rollovers: If you leave an employer and want to transfer your 401(k) savings, Wells Fargo offers helpful ways to convert your funds into an IRA.
Clients should always be aware that money invested with Wells Fargo Advisors or traded through WellsTrade is not insured by the FDIC.
This can be a point of confusion since the name Wells Fargo is most often associated with banking. (Most IRA accounts do have FDIC backing.)
Again, on their own, most of the accounts don’t stand out in their market. For example, a dedicated robo-advisor such as M1 Finance may offer more flexible options and lower rates if you’re looking only for a robo-advisor.
The strength of these options lies in their interconnectedness with Wells Fargo Bank’s other accounts. The ability to move money seamlessly into an IRA or a robo-advising account can make money management easier.
Wells Fargo Bank’s Customer Experience
Wells Fargo has upped its game online over the past few years, integrating new tools and features in hopes of enhancing customer experience:
- My Money Map: Helps you visualize your expenses and money flow.
- ATM by GPS: If you need an ATM and you’re in an unfamiliar neighborhood, your Wells Fargo app can locate one via GPS.
- Mobile deposits: Wells Fargo has, like most big banks, adapted to accept mobile deposits.
- Less clutter: The bank has cleaned up its online interface, making it easier to find what you’re looking for, especially on your phone or device.
- Text alerts: Get alerted via text about large withdrawals, and even transfer funds via text.
- Zelle: Wells Fargo has partnered with Zelle to improve its P2P transfers.
Additionally, the bank offers account-specific tools such as budgeting programs for its Opportunity checking account and parental controls on its Teen checking account.
Wells Fargo Customer Service
Even with improved online tools, customers still need to speak with someone on the phone sometimes. Wells Fargo has operators available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Wells Fargo’s TrustPilot page gives customers a place to vent about frustrations. One-star reviews are common. But as savvy online shoppers know, online reviews represent just a tiny fraction of customer experience.
For example, reading 100 reviews may seem like a lot, but for a bank with 70 million customers, 100 reviews represents only 1 in 700,000 customers.
Also, angrier customers typically have the most reason to write a review. Online reviews for any large nationwide bank tend to be low.
This doesn’t mean new customers should disregard the experience of other customers. It just means online reviews don’t tell the entire story and that you should look into details yourself before making a decision.
If you need outside opinions, consider asking someone you know who banks with Wells Fargo to see how they’d describe the relationship.
Fraudulent Account Activities
Wells Fargo continues to work on its corporate image after an investigation in 2016 revealed the bank had opened accounts without customers’ permission in an attempt to meet quotas and incentives.
The company admitted to the mistake and has reconciled with customers. The company has launched an ad campaign addressing the issue and placing the problem within the context of its larger history as a trusted name in banking.
Current and new Wells Fargo customers shouldn’t expect to fall victim to such practices again, but customers have the right to ask questions or to choose another bank if they’re concerned about unusual account activity.
Wells Fargo vs. Its Competition
Only a handful of banks offer the reach and variety of Wells Fargo. If you plan to start a relationship with Wells Fargo, you may also be considering another large bank:
Bank of America vs. Wells Fargo
Bank of America offers the same full-service approach to checking, saving, borrowing, and investing. Here are some key points of comparison:
- Savings: Bank of America offers slightly higher savings rates, though they still don’t approach the rates you can find elsewhere.
- Checking: Bank of America’s monthly fees are higher in most accounts, but like Wells Fargo, they’re easy enough to waive.
- CD rates: Wells Fargo’s CD rates tend to be higher than Bank of America’s. Of course, neither bank competes well against savings-specific online banks.
- Customer service: Wells Fargo has more branches and offers 24/7 customer service, which Bank of America does not provide. Bank of America’s mobile banking apps get slightly better reviews from customers.
Chase vs. Wells Fargo
Chase also has a variety of services and a wide-reaching network of branches and ATMs. Here’s how they compare to Wells Fargo in some key areas:
- Savings: Both Chase and Wells Fargo have below-average savings rates with neither bank distinguishing itself. Chase is more likely to have sign-on bonuses for new accounts.
- Checking: Fees are comparable at both banks, though it’s easier to waive the fee at Wells Fargo. Chase offers incentives such as sign-on bonuses for some new accounts. Chase doesn’t charge a fee for auto transfers to avoid overdraft fees.
- CDs: Wells Fargo has better deals on 12-month CDs and longer-term CDs.
- Customer service: Chase has more ATMs but fewer branches; both banks have 24/7 customer service via phone, chat, and email.
Citibank vs. Wells Fargo
The fourth of the U.S.’s “Big Four,” Citibank also provides a full-service approach to banking. Here’s how Citibank compares with Wells Fargo:
- Savings: Citibank has higher savings rates, but Wells Fargo tends to have lower minimum balances to open an account.
- Checking: Citibank has a higher monthly fee, but like the other large banks, it’s easy enough to waive. Citibank does not require a minimum balance.
- CDs: Wells Fargo has better CD rates across the board, though special rates can change this trend.
- Customer service: Citibank has far fewer branches, but many more ATMs. Both banks have 24/7 customer service via phone, chat, and email.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Wells Fargo
- History: Wells Fargo has a long-standing history of successful banking.
- Comprehensive: They give you access to just about every kind of consumer banking product all in one place.
- Locations: Wells Fargo has branches across the country with face-to-face advice.
- Customer experience: Wells Fargo’s mobile features are impressive and easy to use.
- Rates: An online bank specializing in high-yield savings accounts will give you a better savings rate.
- Application: Another mortgage broker may have a more streamlined application process and better customer service.
- Rewards: You may like the rewards you found in another bank’s credit card program.
- Reputation: Wells Fargo’s recent history of account fraud may make you wary. The problems have been resolved, but the company is still trying to rebuild its image.
Bottom Line: Jack-of-All-Trades Banking
Personal banking should be personal, and your personal choice in banking should make sense to you. It doesn’t have to make sense to everyone else.
Wells Fargo has the branches, staff, and ATMs to meet many U.S. customers where they are: in their neighborhoods, shopping centers, college campuses, and airports.
Wells Fargo has a wide variety of products.
While none of the bank’s products leads the pack, the services can offer a lot of convenience when used in conjunction with each other.
For specialty products, go elsewhere. For access to a lot of services in one place, consider Wells Fargo as a top possibility.