Wells Fargo Review 2021: Pros and Cons
Information about Wells Fargo Review 2021: Pros and Cons
Wells Fargo is a Big Four bank that made big headlines back in 2016 and 2017 over a scandal where employees created millions of fake accounts to hit their sales targets.
They’ve come a long way since then, working on earning trust back with strong customer service and new mobile services, but ultimately it’s up to you to decide whether you should or shouldn’t trust Wells Fargo with your money.
We’re here to give you an honest look at the bank’s checking and savings account features for individuals and small businesses, as well as its overall convenience and mobile banking features.
Wells Fargo Checking Accounts
Wells Fargo offers three checking account options: Everyday Checking, Portfolio by Wells Fargo, and Clear Access Banking. Each account has a $25 minimum starting deposit and monthly fees between $5 and $30.
Best for a Traditional Checking Account
- Complimentary debit card
- Avoidable monthly fees
- No interest earning opportunity
The Everyday Checking account is Wells Fargo’s most popular checking account, offering access to ATMs nationwide, a free debit card, and check writing privileges. After the initial $25 starting balance, there is no minimum balance to maintain, and the $10 monthly service fee is easily avoidable.
The Everyday Checking account allows you to write checks and pull money out of Wells Fargo’s many ATMs, but there is no opportunity to earn interest on your balance. With so many interest-bearing checking account options on the market, the lack of APY is a major downside.
One thing we do like about this account is the many options to waive the $10 monthly service fee. Wells Fargo will waive it if you meet one of the following conditions:
- Have $500 or more in direct deposits
- Maintain a daily balance of $500 or more
- Are between the ages of 17 and 24
- Linked to a Wells Fargo Campus ATM Card or Campus Debit Card
On the other hand, Wells Fargo’s overdraft fees are a steep $35, with a limit of three per day. Overdraft protection is available if you have a linked Wells Fargo savings account or credit card — but the transfer to cover your overdraft will cost you a hefty $12.50.
However, we do like the Automatic Refund feature, which will waive some overdraft fees if Wells Fargo receives an automatic transfer that covers at least the amount you overdrafted by before 9 a.m. the following business day. This feature is free and is automatically applied to most checking accounts.
Portfolio by Wells Fargo
Best for Premium Services
- 24/7 phone support
- $25 monthly fee
- High transaction limits
The Portfolio by Wells Fargo account is Wells Fargo’s premium checking option with perks like waived non-Wells Fargo ATM fees, higher transaction limits and access to investment advisers. While it is an interest bearing account, the maximum annual percentage yield of .02% still leaves something lacking with the Portfolio by Wells Fargo account’s returns.
In keeping with Wells Fargo’s other checking accounts, the Portfolio by Wells Fargo account has a pretty doable starting deposit of $25, but besides that, the account really caters to a high-rolling crowd. For instance, the only option to avoid the $25 monthly service fee is to have $20,000 combined statement end balance — a far cry higher than the $500 needed to waive the monthly fee on an Everyday Checking account.
From there, the Portfolio by Wells Fargo account divides its users into two categories: under $250,000 and over $250,000. Those in the higher tier get .02% APY, unlimited reimbursed fees from non-Wells Fargo ATMs, waived Overdraft Protection transfer fees, and no international transaction fee. The lower tier gets an even tinier .01% APY and similar perks just with limits like one waived overdraft protection transfer fee and one reimbursed non-Wells Fargo ATM fee per pay period.
These perks are nice, but if your goal is to accrue wealth, there are other banks offering high yield accounts that will grow your wealth more quickly. In fact, Wells Fargo doesn’t even come in above the national average of .06% APY.
Clear Access Banking
Best for Low Account Balances
- No overdraft fees
- No check writing abilities
- Digitally focused
Wells Fargo’s Clear Access is a digital-forward bank account focused on keeping banking simple. It doesn’t allow access to checks but does provide a contactless debit card, and users don’t have to deal with pesky overdraft or insufficient fund fees to deal with.
Wells Fargo’s Clear Access Banking account is touted as a simple way to spend only what you have. With a $5 monthly fee that is waived if you’re between the ages 13 to 24, the Clear Access Banking account almost feels like a starter checking account. It’s checkless, and you can only draw out what you have on hand.
Because of that, you’ll never experience an overdraft fee. If you do run into a negative balance from an added charge after authorization like a tip, then you’ll just carry a negative balance and be unable to pull out money until you pay off the negative amount.
Although it’s a pretty basic checking account, you still get access to the contactless debit card, Wells Fargo app, and digital payment platform like Zelle.
Wells Fargo Savings Accounts
If you’re looking to keep all your banking in one place, Wells Fargo offers two primary savings accounts to use alone or link to the Wells Fargo checking account of your choice. Like the checking accounts, both Wells Fargo savings accounts have a $25 minimum opening deposit and the ability to waive the monthly maintenance fees.
Best for Building Savings
- Low service fee but low APY, too
- Automatic savings options
- Optional overdraft protection
The Way2Save Savings account is perfect if you’re looking for a basic, no-frills savings account. The $5 monthly service fee is pretty small, but unfortunately so is .01% APY.
The Way2Save account only has a $5 monthly maintenance fee and several easy ways to waive it. You can waive it if:
- You maintain a daily balance of at least $300.
- You set up at least one automatic transfer each business day
- You set up one Save As You Go® transfer from a linked Wells Fargo checking account
- You’re under 24.
We love how simple it is to waive it, but it’s worth noting that there are many saving accounts on the market without any fees at all. Plus, the Way2Save Account isn’t exactly a way to earn interest, earning just 0.01% APY, which is well below the national average. .
So why do people choose Wells Fargo? The convenience and comfort of access to your cash. It’s easy to find an ATM or even a brick-and-mortar branch. People like the comfort of easily moving their money.
We’re also fans of the optional Save As You Go program, which transfers $1 into your savings account for each non-recurring debit purchase and automatic online bill pay transaction.
Best for Portfolio by Wells Fargo Users
- Highest saving account rate at Wells Fargo
- Unlimited withdrawals
- $12 monthly service fee
Wells Fargo’s Platinum Saving account has a $12 monthly service fee and unlimited ATM withdrawal and check writing privileges. While you do earn interest, the maximum return is a minuscule .02% APY.
Wells Fargo’s Platinum Savings account only offers a base tier APY of .01% — again, well below the national average — and requires a minimum balance of $3,500 to avoid the $12 monthly maintenance fee. If you link your Portfolio by Wells Fargo checking account, then Wells Fargo bumps you up to a, still small, but better, .02% APY. You do get unlimited branch and ATM withdrawals, so if you already plan on having multiple accounts at Wells Fargo, the Platinum Savings account is a nice option.
What Other Services Does Wells Fargo Offer?
If you’re looking for more, Wells Fargo Bank most likely has it. Take a look at other financial services and benefits Wells Fargo offers.
Small Business Banking
We think Wells Fargo is one of the best banks for small businesses in general. We like its small business checking and savings account offerings because of their low fees.
We bet Wells Fargo will meet your small business needs with its three main business checking options:
- Initiate Business Checking
- Navigate Business Checking
- Optimize Business Checking
While we’ll touch on all of them, Initiate Business Checking is the most popular — and we think the best, beginning choice for most — so we’ll focus there first.
Initiate Business Checking
Best for Beginning Business Owners
- Waivable monthly fee
- 24/7 Fraud monitoring
- 100 free transactions
For most small business owners, Wells Fargo’s Initiate Business Checking account will cover your small business needs. It has a low, waivable monthly service fee, and the first 100 transactions each pay period are at no cost to you.
Initiate Business Checking
The Initiate Business Checking Account has a $25 minimum opening deposit. There’s a $10 a month service fee that’s waived with a daily balance of $500 or $1,000 average ledger balance. With the account, you get 100 free transactions and $5,000 worth of free cash deposits each month. After that, transactions cost $0.50 and cash deposits cost $0.30. Plus, you have access to the Wells Fargo mobile app and their small business customer service phone center.
The other two business solutions go up in cost and offerings. The Navigate Business Checking is $25 a month, waived by a daily balance of $10,000 or $15,000 average combined deposit balance. The account has no fee for only the first 250 transactions but also no fee for the first $20,000 in cash deposits. Similar transaction rates apply after you hit these free limits. However, you have the possibility of earning interest on this account, so that’s a plus.
Similarly, the Optimize Business Checking account goes up to a $75 a month (non-waivable), but the earning allowance included in the account can be used to offset the cost. It includes up to five linked Optimize Business Checking accounts and access to treasury management services.
Basically, you decide what your business needs, and Wells Fargo Bank almost certainly has a checking account to match it.
Certificates of Deposit (aka CDs)
Wells Fargo does offer several options for fixed rate CDs. But, with a steep minimum opening deposit of $2,500 and low interest rates of .01% to .02% APY, Wells Fargo just can’t hold its own against other CD offerings on the market. Unless you’re set on Wells Fargo, we suggest you keep looking.
Wells Fargo Credit Cards
With no fee and low APRs, both of Wells Fargo’s Credit Cards are solid options when it comes to credit spending. The only question is which one. We suggest the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ for its unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases. Plus, right now, you get a $200 cash reward bonus when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. If that card doesn’t fit your needs, then the Wells Fargo Reflect Card also presents a strong showing with lowest intro APR for up to 21 months. After the introductory period, the APRs range from 12.99% to 24.99%.
Wells Fargo offers personal loans, home loans, and auto loans with competitive rates. You can check out the rates published daily.We think you should pay more attention to how the rate compares to other lenders than to your feelings of bank loyalty. Pick the best rate for your budget.
Investing and Retirement
Wells Fargo offers a lot of different options for investing and retirement with varying amounts of hands-on control, support, and requirements. For example, The WellsTrade® brokerage account has a minimum initial investment of $0 while the Dedicated Advisor account has a minimum of $100,000. It’s best to decide what you’re looking for and then Wells Fargo probably has an option to fit your needs.
Campus Card Program
While Wells Fargo doesn’t have a college-specific checking account, they do offer college benefits to users who have Wells Fargo Everyday Checking account and go to one of these universities. If you’re one of the lucky few, you can get a Wells Fargo Campus ATM card that doubles as an official campus ID and ATM card.
Wells Fargo Mobile App
Customers give the Wells Fargo Mobile app solid reviews. It gets 4.8 out of 5 stars in the Apple App Store and 4.6 out of 5 stars in the Google Play Store.
We also like the Control Tower option that lets you easily turn your card off if you’ve misplaced it. There’s also a cool cardless ATM option that allows you to access cash using your mobile phone — no debit card required.
The app has several neat financial management tools that let you track your spending in real time, create a budget and make a savings plan. Granted, there are tons of other budgeting apps that do the same things, but it’s nice to have these features rolled into your banking app.
Wells Fargo is hard to beat on convenience, with more than 5,400 branches and 13,000 ATMs in the U.S. There’s also 24/7 customer service.
Of course, like most banks, Wells Fargo offers a lot of digital features like mobile deposit and text banking that make it less important to be able to visit a physical location or interact with an actual human.
While this review is focused on its checking and savings options, it’s a convenient place to bank if you want a full suite of financial products, like credit cards, mortgages, car loans and investment accounts, all under the same roof.
Pros and Cons of Wells Fargo
So how does Wells Fargo compare overall to other banks? Take a look at the pros and cons to get a general idea of how Wells Fargo Bank stacks up.
- The monthly service fees for Wells Fargo’s basic checking and savings accounts are easily waived.
- The Automatic Refund feature is free and will reverse some overdraft fees.
- Tons of ATMs and physical branches nationwide.
- Low-fee checking and savings options for small businesses.
- The APY on savings accounts is well below the national average.
- Not for habitual overdrafters: The standard overdraft fee is $35, and overdraft protection costs $12.50 per transfer.
- The trust factor: Remember that whole fake account scandal?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Wells Fargo
Still wondering? Look below, we’ve answered some of the top questions people have about Wells Fargo.
Is Wells Fargo a Good Bank?
Wells Fargo is a good bank if you’re looking for the convenience of having most of your financial services in one place and access to around 13,000 ATMs and 5,400 branches nationwide. However, if you’re looking for a bank to grow your money, then Wells Fargo’s low APYs make it a poor choice.
Can Wells Fargo be Trusted?
If you’d asked us this during the 2017 scandal for which they eventually paid billions in damages for fraudulent behavior after the discovery of millions of fake accounts, our answer would have been a resounding no. But Wells Fargo is working hard to introduce new security measures like Encryption technology, automatic sign-off, and zero liability protection. And, of course, Wells Fargo is FDIC insured. We think it’s all a step in the right direction, but ultimately it’s up to you.
What are the Pros and Cons of Wells Fargo?
Wells Fargo struggles, however, with below national average APYs and steep fees for overdrafts. If you have a habit of overdrafting, it will run you $35 a draw for up to three transactions a day — that adds up to a lot of money.
What are the Disadvantages of Wells Fargo?
The main drawback we see with Wells Fargo are the low APYs—if you’re looking to earn money through interest, this is not the bank for you. Wells Fargo should also be avoided by people who struggle with overdraft fees. The standard overdraft fee is $35 at a max of three a day. That makes an overdraft slip up pretty expensive.
Robin Hartill, CFP®, is a senior editor and writer at The Penny Hoarder. She writes The Penny Hoarder’s “Dear Penny” personal advice column and also about investing, retirement, taxes and insurance. Personal finance writer Whitney Hanson is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.