Wells Fargo Review: Should You Open an Account?

Wells Fargo's financial products cover every major area of consumer finance, making it a decent choice if you need a wide variety of banking choices. People looking for a single checking or savings account can find better rates and lower fees at other banks, but those who send money to friends and family abroad may benefit from Wells Fargo's unique ExpressSend® program. Finally, Wells Fargo is the largest small business lender in the U.S., making it a strong candidate for small business banking.

Review: Should You Open a Wells Fargo Account?

After the revelation of a huge sales-practices scandal in September 2016, the number of new account openings at Wells Fargo fell by 40%. In response, the bank has begun offering $250 to new customers who open a Wells Fargo Everyday Checking Account and meet a simple deposit or spending requirement. This new offer is one of the highest bank sign-up bonuses currently available, but people who sign up should be diligent about checking their monthly statements, just in case an unexplained maintenance fee or transfer should appear.

Good For...Bad For...
  • High sign-up offer for new checking customers
  • Small business loans and merchant services
  • Low fees on remittances to foreign countries
  • Low interest rates on savings
  • Average account fees and waivers
  • Recent history of questionable sales practices
map of Wells Fargo branches in the US, by county

If you look at other areas, Wells Fargo is a strong choice for small business owners. In addition to providing comprehensive small business bank accounts and merchant services, the bank is the most active participant in the Small Business Administration's 7(a) program for government-guaranteed loans. While it's best for business owners to look at multiple banks in their shopping, Wells Fargo should be on their list if they want to maximize their chances of getting approved for funding.

Wells Fargo also maintains a service called ExpressSend®, which lets people send money to a dozen different countries in Latin America and Asia with very low transfer fees. While most banks require their customers to pay international wire fees averaging $45 per transfer, ExpressSend® can cost as little as $5 depending on the size and destination of your transfer. For people who need to send remittances on a regular basis, Wells Fargo's service presents a substantial advantage over other options.

Our final word to those who are skeptical about Wells Fargo: so long as you're careful, it's still a reasonable banking choice if you live within its service area. Monitor your statements regularly for mysterious transactions, and seriously consider whether you need additional products before you take a banker's advice on applying for a new credit card or taking out a loan with Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo Checking Account Features

Wells Fargo has six different checking account options, each appropriate for a different audience. These include premium checking as well as accounts for teens and people who have trouble getting approved at other banks.

Account NameDetails
Wells Fargo Everyday Checking
  • Minimum to Open: $50 OR $25 online
  • Monthly Fees: $10 + $1 paper statement fee
  • Monthly Fee Waiver: $1,500 daily balance OR $500 direct deposit
  • Non-Network ATM Fee: $2.50
  • Daily ATM Limit: $300
Wells Fargo Preferred Checking
  • Minimum to Open: $50
  • Monthly Fees: $15 + $1 paper statement fee
  • Monthly Fee Waiver: $10,000 daily balance OR a linked Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
  • Non-Network ATM Fee: $2.50
  • APY: 0.01% on balances at least $500
Wells Fargo PMA® Package
  • Minimum to Open: $50
  • Monthly Fees: $30 + $1 paper statement fee
  • Monthly Fee Waiver: $25,000 daily balance OR $50,000 in combined Wells Fargo accounts
  • Non-Network ATM Fee: $2.50
  • APY: 0.01% OR 0.05% on balances at least $5,000
Wells Fargo Teen Checking
  • Minimum to Open: $50
  • Monthly Fees: $0 + $3 paper statement fee
  • Age Limit: 13 to 17 years old
  • Non-Network ATM Fee: $2.50
  • Daily ATM Limit: $300
Wells Fargo Opportunity Checking®
  • Minimum to Open: $25
  • Monthly Fees: $10 + $1 paper statement fee
  • Non-Network ATM Fee: $2.50
  • Daily ATM Limit: $300

If you take the time to waive the paper statement fees by switching to online statements, Wells Fargo's monthly fees are slightly better than those at other major banks. However, the real advantage at this bank comes with the large variety of options. For instance, neither Chase nor Bank of America —Wells Fargo's two closest competitors —carry any options specifically marketed to customers whose credit or banking histories prevent them from getting approved for accounts elsewhere. The Wells Fargo Opportunity Checking Account gives such "toxic" bank customers an opportunity to get back into the mainstream banking system.

Wells Fargo Teen Checking is another account with excellent features. Designed for teenagers from 13 to 17 years old, it's one of the easiest accounts to maintain for free: the $3 monthly statement fee can be waived by simply switching over to online statements. Other banks usually impose minimum balance or activity requirements, which can be somewhat difficult for teens to fulfill. Besides being essentially free, the account provides access to money management tools you won't find at banks like Chase or Bank of America.

As for Wells Fargo's standard and premium checking accounts, you won't find much to differentiate the options from similar products at most other brick-and-mortar banks. Better checking options can be found online, if you're willing to live without access to a physical bank. Perhaps the most obvious benefit of Wells Fargo checking lies in how easy it is to find a branch office or ATM almost anywhere in the country. Interestingly, Wells Fargo is the only one of the three largest banks to operate branches in Alaska.

Wells Fargo Savings Account Features

Savings accounts at traditional banks have fallen far behind the interest rates you can find with online institutions, and Wells Fargo is no exception in this area. Most people will only earn 0.01% to 0.03% APY on their savings, and even those with $100,000 or more are limited to just 0.10% APY with Wells Fargo Platinum Savings.

Account NameDetails
Wells Fargo Way2Save® Savings
  • APY: 0.01%
  • Difference from National Average: -0.05%
  • Minimum Balance for APY: $0
  • Monthly Fees: $5
  • Fee Waivers: $300 daily minimum, age 18 or younger, $25 repeating automatic transfer from Wells Fargo checking account
Wells Fargo Opportunity Savings
  • APY: 0.01%
  • Difference from National Average: -0.05%
  • Minimum Balance for APY: $0
  • Monthly Fees: $5
  • Fee Waivers: $300 daily minimum, $100 monthly direct deposit, $25 repeating automatic transfer from Wells Fargo checking account
Wells Fargo Platinum Savings
  • APY: 0.03% OR 0.10%
  • Difference from National Average: -0.03% OR +0.04%
  • Minimum Balance for APY: $0 OR $100,000
  • Monthly Fees: $12
  • Fee Waivers: $3,500 daily minimum

The interest rates at Wells Fargo aren't anything special, but if you're already taking out a loan or using a Wells Fargo checking account, it won't hurt to have a savings account there as well. With the more basic Way2Save Savings Account and Opportunity Savings, either a $300 daily balance or a $25 automatic transfer from your Wells Fargo checking account will waive the $5 maintenance fee. The real cost of keeping your savings with Wells Fargo is that you'll miss out on stronger rates elsewhere.

How Does Wells Fargo Compare to Other Banks?

Wells Fargo has branches just about everywhere, so it's likely that people within its service area have at least one other major bank to consider. We've given a brief head-to-head comparison between Wells Fargo and its largest competitors.

Wells Fargo vs. Chase

The retail banking division of JPMorgan Chase rounds out the list of top three U.S. banks, alongside Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Chase Bank branch locations tend to be concentrated in the country's most populated metropolitan areas, which means that Wells Fargo provides superior coverage in most other regions.

map of Chase branches in the US, by county

Location aside, Chase tends to fall behind Wells Fargo in the variety of checking and savings services it offers. It has no option for second-chance checking like Wells Fargo Opportunity Checking®, and while Chase's online banking interface is simple and intuitive, it doesn't provide any ways to assist in financial management like Wells Fargo's My Savings Plan and Budget Watch features do.

However, Chase does have a better set of credit card options, all of which earn points within the Ultimate Rewards program. This means that frequent credit card users may find better value banking with Chase, since they'll be able to link their bank balances to pay off Chase cards automatically.

Wells Fargo vs. Bank of America

Bank of America has a great deal of overlap with Wells Fargo in the states and cities they cover, but most people looking for a checking account will find a better deal at Wells Fargo. While Bank of America has higher daily debit and ATM withdrawal limits, most people shouldn't have a big problem with the limits set by Wells Fargo: you can withdraw up to $300 in cash from ATMs and spend up to $1,500 with your debit card each day.

map of Bank of America branches in the US, by county

Bank of America charges slightly more than Wells Fargo in monthly maintenance for its Core Checking Account, and it also charges a $5 paper statement fee that can only be avoided by choosing electronic statements. Wells Fargo charges $1 for the same service, and its monthly maintenance can be waived without any balance or direct deposit requirements: all you need is 10 debit card purchases each month.

Wells Fargo vs. Capital One

Capital One has a limited number of physical branch offices, but its strongest deposit account comes in the form of Capital One 360 Checking, an interest-bearing checking account serviced through the bank's online portal. This account earns 0.20% APY on any balance and 0.75% APY on balances above $50,000. These rates are far higher than what you can earn with any Wells Fargo product, at any balance. If you're willing to give up banking in person, Capital One's bank accounts may present better value than Wells Fargo.

map of Capital One branches in the US, by county

Like Wells Fargo, Capital One places a good deal of focus on small business accounts. The Capital One Spark Business Basic Checking and Spark Unlimited Checking Accounts come with unlimited free transactions, meaning businesses won't have to deal with a per-item fee every time their customers make a payment into the account. Most banks, including Wells Fargo, limit a business's free transactions to about 500 per month or fewer.

Bank of America vs. Citibank

Most consumers in the U.S. will want to select Wells Fargo over Citibank, simply because Wells Fargo operates far more domestic offices than Citibank. However, people who do end up spending a lot of time in other countries may find Citibank's global network of branches more useful. In terms of accounts, Citibank does provide higher daily spending and withdrawal limits than Wells Fargo, and makes it easier to waive the monthly fees.

In the end, though, a [good checking account](best-checking-accounts should let you access your money quickly and easily. Wells Fargo's ATMs and banks are much easier to reach than Citibank's, and the differences in fees and limits don't make up for Citibank's disadvantages in accessibility.

map of Citibank branches in the US, by county

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